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John Lee Hooker Lyrics

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Hi all,
I've had occasion recently to listen to John Lee Hooker's original recording of "Boogie Chillen" a great deal and have become somewhat obsessed with it.  It is a terrific rendition both vocally and instrumentally.  John Lee accompanied himself out of Spanish tuning at B, and the groove he sets up and maintains is one of the coolest ever.  In a certain sort of way he's not doing all that much, but when you can play time that well, you don't have to do very much to be completely satisfying, musically.
Vocally, the song is primarily a recitation with incidental singing.  I think that John Lee Hooker, much like Lightnin' Hopkins, a close contemporary of his in age, was prodigally gifted, vocally.  He sounds more musical talking than all but the best singers do singing.  If you've never heard this, I strongly encourage you to seek it out.  And make no mistake--John Lee Hooker may have been playing an electric guitar, but this is Country Blues all the way.  It is trance music, and very pared back harmonically, for John Lee goes to a IV7 chord just a couple of times and avoids the V7 chord altogether.  It is just a treat.

   (Sung) Well, my Mama, she didn't allow me just to stay out all night long, oh Lord
   Well, my Mama didn't allow me just to stay out all night long
   I didn't care if she didn't allow--I would boogie-woogie anyhow

   (Spoken) When I first come to town, people, I was walkin' down Hastings Street.  I heard everybody talking about the Henry's Swing Club. I said, "I got to drop into there tonight." And when I got there--
   (Sung) I say, yes, people, yes, they were really havin' a ball.
   (Spoken) Yes, I know.  Boogie, chillen!


   (Spoken) One night, I was layin' down.  I hear Mama and Papa talkin'.  I hear Papa tell Mama "to let that boy boogie.  'Cause it's in him, and it got to come out."
   (Sung) Well, I felt so good, and I went on boogie woogiein' just the same.
   (Spoken) Yes!

Edited 2/4 to pick up correction from Bunker Hill

All best,

Bunker Hill:
Small observation John, the club on Hastings Street was Henry's.

Hooker had four attempts at this for Bernie Besman on November 3, 1948, all lyrically different. The first was released on Modern 20-627 (reached no. 1 Billboard's R&B chart February 1949) and a second on Modern 893. The other two takes didn't see light of day until 1970s.


--- Quote ---He sounds more musical talking than all but the best singers do singing.
--- End quote ---

Ain't that the truth!

I went looking for a discography so i could figure out which album to dig out and found this (searchable by song or label):

and this:

It also led me on to the acoustic 1949 Gene Dietch recordings which i hadn't even heard of.

EDIT correcting spelling on Gene Deitch's surname

Bunker Hill:
Just to add to the list of internet discographies there's this one devoted solely to vinyl JLH that also incorporates a full JLH bibliography donated by compiler Robert Ford.

Thanks for the lyric fix, Bunker Hill.  I will make the change.
All best,


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