Montrealstar 02


By Larry Bohter

How many 62-year-old men know how to boogie? John Lee Hooker does, but that’s to be expected; He invented the form back in the late ’40s and has been playing it ever since, first to blues lovers and more recently to the rock ‘n’ roll generation.

The members of Hooker’s Coast-to-Coast Blues Band, which is supporting the singer during a Cellar Door engagement that runs through Sunday, are of that generation, so they’ve grown up hearing “Boom Boom” and other of Hooker’s 12-bar masterpieces. So have groups like Canned Heat and Z. Z. Top, which have made -whole careers of diluting the simple but in­sistent style Hooker pioneered.

That, however, didn’t seem to bother Hooker last night. The “King of Boogie” was in an amiable, energetic mood, so full of spunk that he even got up from his chair to dance a bit and quote Muddy Waters’ “I’m A Man” midway through the long and rousing version of “Do the Boogie.”

During the other numbers in his set, he was seated, picking an ampli­fied guitar tuned to an open G chord whenever he wanted to emphasize a phrase in the lyrics. The bulk of the guitar work though, he left to John Garcia, an able soloist in the B. B. King and Peter Green tradition, and Bill Mader, whose rhythm work substituted for the piano or harmonica that might have been expected.

Supporting musicians had their work cut out for them, because Hooker, being of the country blues school, improvises many of his lyrics and doesn’t always recognize the existence of a steady beat. The songs on which Hooker and the band hummed together tightest, “Chicken ‘n Gravy” and “I’m Mad,” were, quite naturally, the most compelling moments in an extremely funky hour of music.

The Montreal Star
Tuesday, May 10, 1977