John Lee Hooker Jams with the Stones and Clapton

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Photo via John Lee Hooker's Facebook page

Photo via John Lee Hooker’s Facebook page

Look at any list of the most influential blues artists of all-time, and John Lee Hooker will be near the top—and if he isn’t, then don’t trust the list! Hooker—born August 22, 1912—didn’t invent the boogie-woogie rhythm but, perhaps more than any other bluesman, he was responsible for transposing its driving, hypnotically repetitious pulse from piano to guitar, an innovation that found favor among blues aficionados beginning in the late 1940s.

Hooker’s single “Boogie Chillen,” released on Modern Records, became a massive “race record” hit in 1949 and opened the door both for Hooker himself and for the danceable brand of raw blues he proffered.

Not surprisingly, in the coming decades Hooker’s tunes caught on both with folk music fans enchanted by his authenticity (he was often booked at folk festivals) and with rock musicians infatuated with the blues, both in the U.S. and England. By the ’60s, his songs were commonly turning up on classic rock albums, interpreted by the likes of the Animals “(Boom Boom”), the Doors (“Crawling King Snake”) and, in the following decade, George Thorogood and the Destroyers (“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”). ZZ Top virtually built their entire approach around what Hooker perfected and Canned Heat recorded an entire classic album with the blues giant, Hooker ’n Heat.

Related: If you want more of that boogie, check out our profile of Foghat

The Rolling Stones, of course, idolized Hooker. “He was a throwback even in his own time,” Keith Richards once said. “Even Muddy Waters was sophisticated next to him.” Hooker, like most of the blues artists who served as role models to the younger generation, appreciated that his music had made such an impact and so when the Stones invited him to sit in during their December 19, 1989, show at Atlantic City’s Convention Center during their Steel Wheels tour, he was happy to oblige. And just for good measure, the band also invited their peer Eric Clapton to join in on the fun.

Talk about blues power! Here are Hooker (age 77 at the time), Clapton, Richards and Ron Wood—along with Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, but no Mick—trading riffs on the one that started it all for the great John Lee Hooker, who died June 21, 2001. Long live the boogie-woogie!

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