Home » Jazz Musicians » Earl Hooker

Earl Hooker

Earl Hooker played and lived the blues. He played in a Delta style taken largely from Robert Nighthawk with a touch of T-Bone Walker, but he did it with a flair and flamboyance unmatched by any of his contemporaries. He was part of the Chicago scene but his style was not simply a Chicago sound, as he had a fondness for Country and Western and a leaning towards jazz. He experimented with any new technology he could afford (or steal). He used the slide not to play block chords but to race up and down a single string while his fingers as fast as any in the business produced dazzling melodic patterns, and when slide and wah-wah were used simultaneously he really made the guitar talk. No one could touch him for precision or control.

Earl Hooker was born in Clarksdale in 1930 which made him about 15 years junior to Muddy Waters (who was also from Clarksdale), and 12 years younger than John Lee Hooker. Earl was John Lee Hooker's first cousin, but that is where the similarity ended between these two.

Earl moved to Chicago at the age of one, and as a youngster and teenager, no doubt was exposed to the fertile blues scene there. Music came naturally as his parents were both playing musicians. He started playing guitar about 1945 after meeting Robert Nighthawk. Nighthawk had already cut records under the name of Robert Lee McCoy for the Bluebird label, and had been an accompanist for John Lee (Sonny Boy) Williamson on some of his sides for Bluebird.

While Nighthawk became the main influence on Hooker's playing, Earl learned from other guitarists and became adept in several genres aside from the blues, like country & western, jazz, and popular music that would soon become rock and roll. While still a teenager, Earl left Chicago and became a road-rambler. He returned to the south to play in Ike Turner's band which might account for Hooker making some of his early recordings for Sam Phillip's Sun Records company, since Turner was a talent scout for several of the independent labels. Earl's earliest sides in 1952, were instrumentals, made for the King label (re- issued once on a King LP of mostly John Lee Hooker sides) and were recorded in Florida right in the club where he was playing a job. Earl was to spend much of his life on the move, criss-crossing the U.S.A. (and once to Europe), playing clubs and joints, and making trips to studios in Bradenton, Miami, Memphis, Chicago, Wisconsin, Los-Angeles, and London.

Read more

Tags

Album Review
Read more articles

Photos

Album Discography

Similar

Buddy Guy
guitar, electric
Howlin' Wolf
voice / vocals
T-Bone Walker
guitar, electric
Albert King
guitar, electric
Elmore James
guitar, slide
Otis Rush
guitar, electric
Robert Nighthawk
guitar, slide
Son Seals
guitar, electric

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.