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Interviews

John Lee Hooker Jr.: All Odds Against Me

By Published: November 25, 2008

He'd say, "When I start with this new label and management, when I get the 'break,' we're moving, and I will send for you." So yes, I lived with him. I worked with him. I loved taking care of him. He welcomed the transition with a round of applause. It was a part of success, moving his family up to the next level "California good living," and we could tell, something new and better had happened.

AAJ: Of the awards that your father received, was there any one of which he was most proud? Do you recall his reaction to hearing he was to receive the award?

JLHJ: He was proud of them all, but I would imagine his first Grammy, after being cheated, held back. He was in his late 70s, into his 80s, before he received these prestigious awards. He was happy, but he was so humble. You would never hear him shout with excitement. Just: Well, you work hard that's what will happen.

AAJ: Of course the Live at Soledad Prison album was the first on which you accompanied your father. Do you recall this session? Can you relate what your reaction was going into a prison to entertain and record this album?

JLHJ: Yes, I recall it. It was an all-of-a-sudden type session, "As soon as they clear you and the guys, we're going into prison and record." I said, "cool!" We knew the prisoners would be so happy to see us and hear us. They were hungry. It was so loud, they yelled, "Here we go, get down John Lee, go Junior Hooker." They respected us enormously. I loved it. I also used to do prison and jail ministry. They love you, they are so enthusiastic.

AAJ: On how many of his recordings did you accompany him? Was there any session more memorable than others? Were you duly credited for the work you did on each album? Do you have any stories regarding these sessions you would like to share?

JLHJ: Of course, I was paid by my dad. However, we only recorded once together. What can I say. I wanted to, after that, move to my own career. I wanted to establish my own way and style of the blues. What better way after in-the-field training, to go out and see if it'll pay off.

AAJ: Was it easy growing up in the shadow of a musical legend? Had you ever said, "I wish people would judge me on my own merit?" Do you object to comparisons?

JLHJ: I grew up just like any other kid on the block. Some dads went to work with a lunch pail. My dad went with an amp and a guitar, but they all caught the same bus to go to work. I have never said, "I wish people would quit trying to compare me to him." People are curious. That is the nature of humans. They compare. This is a competitive world. Also, I have never been in the shadows of my dad. I carry on a legacy that's broad and wide, and as deep as his shoes were. I don't try to step into them. For if I did, I can acknowledge that I'd break my neck because they're too big. He was a giant. I am humble and grateful to say that I am just getting started. We have two different styles, and once folks hear my music, they know.

AAJ: Do you have any brothers or sisters who are also musicians? What are they doing now?

JLHJ: My brother Robert is an accomplished keyboard/organ player. He worked with my dad almost more than I. We both played in my dad's band. My sister, Zakiya, sings, has several CDs out. My cousin, Archie, is a singers as well. They are both still loving what they do. In fact, the three of us did the Tribute Festival to John Lee Hooker.

AAJ: You had a tough go with your involvement with substance abuse. Was there any event that may have triggered the abuse? Or did you start getting high because of the ease of accessibility, and because everyone else was doing it?

JLHJ: Good question. This was the trend. This was the thing, just like skate boards, just like piercing one's nose, nipples, as it was with LSD. It just was what the fellas in the crowd or school were doing. It was cool. I wished I never had done it. I wasted all that time, but thank God, He woke me up.

AAJ: Did you continue with your music through this period of time?

JLHJ: No, I didn't continue with music. The two don't go together. Ask Sly Stone, ask any drug-using musician. Just like oil and water, you can't function,. You're a zombie. You will become anti-social. Everyone will peak at your hole card.

AAJ: Did the name of your first album, Blues with A Vengeance, have a significance? How was this first solo release for you received in the United States and abroad?

JLHJ: Very significant. I was held back for so long, all of the emotions and desires to let my gifts go, free them if you will. It was like a wild bull in captivity, and as soon as you let him go, he comes out with a vengeance. After being freed from prison and the long addiction of drugs, I was mad, mad because I have been held down so long by the darkness that blinded me. It made its mark with a Grammy nomination, W.C. Handy award, Comeback Artist of the Year," and California Music Award. It did very well. I was free inside of everything.

AAJ: You are presently doing a lengthy tour of Europe promoting your latest release All Odds Against Me. How is your music received there?

JLHJ: In Europe, they love us. My dad made it big over there before getting big over here. That's not the formula I am following, but they are just crazy about the blues. They appreciate us very much.



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