Reference Entry

Hooker, John Lee

in American National Biography Online

Published online April 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780198606697

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blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist, was born in the Mississippi Delta near Clarksdale, Mississippi, one of eleven children of the Reverend William Hooker and Minnie Ramsey, tenant farmers. Young John Lee began a life in music singing gospel in church, and the mixture of blues and gospel would influence his mature performances. An itinerant bluesman gave John Lee his first guitar while courting one of his older sisters. Forbidden by his father to play the instrument in the house, he practiced on his front porch or in the woods. Minnie Hooker left Reverend Hooker when John Lee was eleven years old. She moved in with William Moore, another local sharecropper and a blues musician. John Lee, in awe of his stepfather’s musical skills, was the only one of his siblings to choose to move in with his mother and Moore. Moore initially refused to take John Lee with him to Clarksdale, where he is said to have played with the master bluesmen Blind Lemon Jefferson and Son House, but the two played together frequently as John Lee got older. The most important gift Moore gave John Lee was “the boogie,” his signature one-chord rhythmic guitar style that John Lee would make his own and later bestow upon the entire world.

Reference Entry.  1393 words. 

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