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October 2008

H.E.A.R. Honors John Lee Hooker Jr.

John Lee Hooker Jr. was born in Detroit "Motor" City with Delta blues-filled blood running through his Motown veins. The son of the great John Lee Hooker, he was exposed the life of the blues from a young age. At only eight years old Jr. performed on Detroit's WJBK radio and knew from that moment that he wanted to follow the path of his father and become a world-class musician. Touring alongside Hooker, Sr. throughout his teens, Jr. had already performed in prestigious venues such as Detroit's Fox Theatre with acclaimed musicians like Jimmy Reed by the time he was 16. In 1972, an eighteen year-old John Jr. was singing vocals alongside his father for the recording of Hooker, Sr.'s album Live at Soledad Prison (ABC Records).

Unfortunately, while living the "life of a bluesman" he succumbed to the demons that surround it, derailing his musical career for many, many years. Drugs, alcohol, divorce, incarceration, and death nearly brought his once promising career to a screeching halt, but it was living the blues and his faith in the Almighty that resurrected Jr. Hooker. With the support of his family and friends, and a crew of talented musicians who never ceased to believe in him, Jr. Hooker finally found his own inner muse, making music that expresses the depth of emotion he has experienced in his personal life.

His first album, Blues with a Vengeance (Kent Records), is what he called his "celebratory redemption." After struggling through years of extreme hardship and nearly losing himself to the streets, the remarkable John Lee Hooker Jr. overcame the adversity to begin a rapid emergence into the blues spotlight. Released in April 2004, Blues with a Vengeance certainly lived up to its name by wrapping up 2004 with a Grammy nomination in the Traditional Blues Album category and a nomination for a distinguished W.C. Handy Award as Best New Artist Debut. The California Music Awards (formerly the BAMMYS) named Blues with a Vengeance 2004's Outstanding Blues Album of the Year, and the Bay Area Blues Society presented John Lee Hooker Jr. with the 2004 Comeback Artist of the Year award, as he performed alongside world-class musicians Jimmy Reed, BB King, Bo Diddley, Lenny Kravitz, Taj Mahal, Koko Taylor, Charlie Musslewhite, Etta James, and John Lee Hooker.

Cold As Ice, Jr. Hooker's second album, was released by Telarc Records in June of 2006 and showed his progression as a contemporary blues artist. Blending his roots with a modern sound, his style is indicative of his Motown base. Music enthusiasts describe his style as R&B, Jazz, Funk, and "down home blues". While the record did not gather as much attention as his debut, it received positive reviews across the board and solidified Jr. Hooker as one of blues' rising stars. Epitomizing the synthesis between traditional blues and the new age funk, the record at times pays homage to his father while at others it blazes a trail of its own.

As Jr. Hooker prepares for his third release, All Odds Against Me, he continues to carry blues into the 21st century. The 12-song album, to be released domestically on Jr. Hooker's own Steppin' Stone Records and in Europe on Jazzhaus Records, is his first effort to include only new and original tracks, a contrast to either of his previous solo projects.

Additionally, Jr. continues to stretch the envelope, becoming blues' first animated superhero in a cartoon included on the enhanced disc. The first episode of "Bluesman" introduces Jr. Hooker. as a crime-fighting musician, singing in clubs by night and cleaning up the streets by day. Conceived by Frenchman Laurent Mercier at the Callicore Animation Studios in Paris, the video series has also inspired work to begin on a comic book. Mercier, son of a French jazzman contemporary of Hooker Sr., dreamt up the idea as a way for the two sons to pay tribute to their fathers' legacies and Jr. immediately embraced the vision. Set to "Blues Ain't Nothing but a Pimp" from Blues with a Vengeance, the video is the first of three to be released in 2008.

From the gravely blues of the Detroit streets to a new era of sound; from the shadow of his father's accomplishments to standing apart from his namesake; from criminal to crime-fighter; from San Quentin to the Red Carpet, its no wonder the album is called All Odds Against Me. John Lee Hooker Jr. has built upon his colorful past as he continues to distinguish himself as a contemporary "Bluesman."


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