Earl Hooker

Earl Hooker
(photo by Chris Strachwitz - © Arhoolie Foundation)

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Earl Hooker Interview (35:32) LISTEN HERE: Earl Hooker
Interviewed by: Chris Strachwitz
Date: 
Location:  Chicago, Il
Language: English

 

This is an unedited interview originally recorded for research purposes. It is presented here in its raw state, unedited except to remove some irrelevant sections and blank spaces. All rights to the interview are reserved by the Arhoolie Foundation. Please do not use anything from this website without permission. info@arhoolie.org


A Note About the Transcriptions: In order to expedite the process of putting these interviews online, we are using a transcription service. Due to the challenges of transcribing speech – especially when it contains regional accents and refers to regional places and names – some of these interview transcriptions may contain errors. We have tried to correct as many as possible, but if you discover errors while listening, please send corrections to info@arhoolie.org.

Earl Hooker Poster

Transcript:

Chris Strachwitz:    Well I guess the thing to start out with usually is pretty good, when were you born?

Earl Hooker:    Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Strachwitz:    Clarksdale, and what's your birthday?

Hooker:    My birthday is January 15th.

Strachwitz:    Could you tell us the year, too, you were born in?

Hooker:    I was born in 1930, January 15th.

Strachwitz:    1930. Did you grow up on a farm there?

Hooker:    No. I grew up here in Chicago. I came to Chicago.

Strachwitz:    Yeah, but I mean when you were a kid were your folks working on the plantation or something?

Hooker:    Yeah. My mother and them, father. They used to work on the farm and they brought me to Chicago when I was one year old.

Strachwitz:    When you were one year old?

Earl Hooker

Earl Hooker
(photo by Chris Strachwitz - © Arhoolie Foundation)

Hooker:    Yeah.

Strachwitz:    Oh, is that right?

Hooker:    Yeah, so really Chicago is my home that I know something about.

Strachwitz:    Oh yeah. Were your folks playing music too? Did your mother play anything?

Hooker:    My father used to play. He used to play harmonica and guitar and violin. My mother she sang, used to be on, I'm trying to think, Rabbit Foot show a long time ago.

Strachwitz:    Was she a singer?

Hooker:    Yeah, she sings.

Strachwitz:    You had some music in your family.

Hooker:    Yeah, everybody in my family sing. Some preachers, some singers and Joe Hinton, he's my first cousin, the one that made "Funny How Time Slips Away". He made lots of records.

Strachwitz:    Is his name Hooker too?

Earl Hooker

Earl Hooker Chief C-7031

Hooker:    No. His name is Hinton, Joe Hinton.

Strachwitz:    Oh, Joe Hinton. He's your cousin?

Hooker:    That's him right there in that picture there.

Strachwitz:    Yeah. That was his picture. I didn't know he was related to you. Do you have any brothers and sisters?

Hooker:    I have a sister. She's a musician too. She play organ and sing.

Strachwitz:    She live here in Chicago?

Hooker:    She live here in Chicago, yeah.

Strachwitz:    Your parents came up here right in the Depression time, I guess.

Hooker:    That's right. Yeah, it's been a long time ago, something I don't know nothing about.

Strachwitz:    You were raised right in here. Who were some of the people that kind of got you to take up the guitar? How did you start? Do you remember what the first things ...

Hooker:    Well, Robert Nighthawk and a boy named Leo Blevins and Kinky Blevins, two brothers, they learned me how to play music and that's how I first got my start. First I used to be a bad, bad, boy, run around with street gangs. After I got to playing music well all this here bad stuff got out of my mind and I got interested in playing music. My first guitar that I ever bought I bought from Sears and Roebuck. I paid a dollar down and fifty cent a week.

Earl Hooker

Earl Hooker
(photo by Chris Strachwitz - © Arhoolie Foundation)

Strachwitz:    Was that en electric box or did you start…?

Hooker:    No, that was one of the old round-hole guitar, folks guitar is what they call them now.

Strachwitz:    Did you learn right from Robert to play with a slide and that kind of thing?

Hooker:    Yeah, Robert Nighthawk learned me how to play a slide. I used to watch him play and that's where I got my style playing from him.

Strachwitz:    Was he playing around Chicago most of the time?

Hooker:    Yeah, he had a music store here one time.

Strachwitz:    Oh, he had a music store?

Hooker:    Yeah, and that's how I first learnt to start playing music going over there listening to him play. Then I used to take music and then after I got so good with it, then I started going down to Lyon & Healys’ music store taking music.

Strachwitz:    Oh, so you took, actually, lessons from quite a few people.

Hooker:    Yeah, lots of people.

Strachwitz:    That's probably why you're one of the best technicians then in Chicago. Everybody knows you as really the best guitar…

Hooker:    Cut it.

Earl Hooker
4600 King

Strachwitz:    Yeah, let me cut it.

Strachwitz:    I like to get some background on people. You know, see who you learned from and what made you such a good musician. That’s always an interesting thing to find out, because everybody in town knows you as the best side man, you know, they ever had.

Hooker:    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Strachwitz:    When did you make your first record? Do you remember that, when you first sat in with somebody?

Hooker:    My first record?

Strachwitz:    Yeah.

Hooker:    My first record was on the King label, and I made Race Track Blues, and that was the first one that I ever made. Then I've been going different companies, making records with different peoples like Junior Wells.

Strachwitz:    Yeah, I saw you made a nice guitar…

Hooker:    I made "Up The Hill" with Junior Wells, that was the first record. Not the first one, but the first one was "Messin' with the kid". That was the first one that he had a hit off.

Strachwitz:    That was the one I just heard yesterday.

Earl Hooker & Jr. Wells
Chief C 7016

Hooker:    Then I made a whole lots of records with Junior Wells. I made some with Ricky Allen. I made some with Bobby Blue Bland. Bobby Blue Bland, he used to sing for me a long time ago, me and him started out. Johnny Ace, the young fella that killed himself back in the '50s, and he used to play piano for me. And BB King, we all started out in Memphis, Tennessee playing.

Strachwitz:    Oh you mean you sort went actually back…

Hooker:    No, no, here’s what happened what I mean about we all started out together. In '49 I went to Memphis, and that's how I managed to meet these people.

Strachwitz:    Oh, yeah.

Hooker:    This was the first time I ever went South was in '49.

Strachwitz:    In '49.

Hooker:    And so I stayed around there for about…

Strachwitz:    How did you happen to decide to go down there? Did somebody, you hear somebody talk about it…

Hooker:    Some band came through Chicago needed a guitar player. The name of the band was Ike Turner.

Strachwitz:    Oh, yeah.

Earl Hooker
C.J. 613

Hooker:    That's who I was playing with when I went down to Memphis and all down to Mississippi playing Florida. Then I came back to Memphis. I liked Memphis and so I decided to stay around there for a while on my own and that's how I managed to meet Bobby Blue Bland and Junior Parker and Johnny Ace. At that time they wasn't making records. They was just like I am, playing and singing in  clubs. This sang good and they liked they way I played guitar and so I got them together and I told them, "Well, why don't y'all work with me?" They say, "Well, we would like to work with you because you're about the best guitar player I've ever heard." See, back in those days I was playing more guitar than I am playing now, because I was younger and I had lots of pep for playing music. I was playing better then and my fingers was much fast. Some of the tunes that they playing today, I was playing them back in '49?

Strachwitz:    Is that right?

Hooker:    That's right.

Strachwitz:    Did you also run into Sonny Boy Williamson down there?

Hooker:    Sonny Boy Williamson. I played with Rice Miller, the Sonny Boy Williamson after the first Sonny Boy Williamson died. I originally played with the real Sonny Boy Williamson.

Strachwitz:    Did you know him, too?

Hooker:    That's right. I played on a couple of his records, "Baby Please Don't Go" and "Let Me Play With Your Poodle". The real Sonny Boy Williamson.

Strachwitz:    “Play with Your Poodle,” Tampa Red made that record.

Hooker:    Well, he made it too. Tampa Red made it, Sonny Boy Williamson made it too. "Baby Please Don't Go" that's one of Sonny Boy Williamson records. I know you heard that.

Strachwitz:    Joe Williams made it.

Hooker:    Old song go something like, "Going down in New Orleans and get myself some of those cabbage greens." I don't know if you heard that but those old tunes, see I've forgot the title of it.

Earl Hooker

Earl Hooker
(photo by Chris Strachwitz - © Arhoolie Foundation)

Strachwitz:    Did you ever work on that radio station down there in Helena, Arkansas?

Hooker:    Yeah. I played there for about two years in Helena, Arkansas, the King Biscuit Boy.

Strachwitz:    Who were some of the other guys in the band?

Hooker:    When I went to Helena, Arkansas, I was with Robert Nighthawk. I just played with so many different groups when I was down South. I worked on the broadcast station about two years with Dudlow, Stackhouse and James Peck Curtis, he's a drummer, King Biscuit Boy, and also Robert Junior, he's a guitar player. And also Rice Miller, the second Sonny Boy Williamson.

Strachwitz:    Do you remember anything about how the second Sonny Boy started up? Did he always call himself Sonny Boy Williamson or did he just kind of…

Hooker:    Really, he could sing all of Sonny Boy Williamson's numbers, and after the real Sonny Boy died, well, he just took over. He was the second Sonny Boy Williamson.

Strachwitz:    But I guess you didn't know him before he got on the radio and called himself Sony Boy.

Hooker:    No, I didn't know him then. I knowed him after he had called himself Sonny Boy Williamson, but I knowed the real Sonny Boy Williamson before he died because I used to play with him.

Strachwitz:    Did you ever meet Big Bill Broonzy and fellows like that?

Earl Hooker
AGE 29106

Hooker:    No. I met Big Bill the guitar player, old blues guitar player, Memphis Minie, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf. I used to play with them and Little Walter, I used to play with him. There's just so many of them I've played with, you know.

Strachwitz:    Yeah. Did you ever hear of a fellow named Bobo Jenkins or Robert Jenkins?

Hooker:    No., I never did know him.

Strachwitz:    I'm trying to find out where he was from. You made some records of your own but I guess you also played on a lot of other people's records didn't you?

Hooker:    My first hit record I made on the Age label was "Blue Guitar".

Strachwitz:    On the Ace label?

Hooker:    Yeah, Age.

Strachwitz:    Age?

Hooker:    Yeah, Age.

Strachwitz:    Was that here out of Chicago?

Hooker:    Yeah, out of Chicago. Then my second record I made was a good seller was on Chess was "Tanya" and "Put the shoes on Willie". That was a pretty good record. After then well I just started traveling and my mind got away from making records. That's why I haven't made a record in a long time until now.

Strachwitz:    I guess you had a bout with the TB, but when did you first notice that and how long ago was that?

Hooker:    Really, I've been going in and out of the hospital for about five years now.

Strachwitz:    Yeah, you've been working pretty hard.

Hooker:    You just got to take that rest and you've got to eat right and everything. When you're still on that road out there playing and don't eat and…

Earl Hooker
Arhoolie 45-521

Strachwitz:    It just wore you down.

Hooker:    ... running down the highway you run your resistance down. Then you begin to lose your weight and this is it and then you breakdown, you know?

Strachwitz:    Yeah. It seems like you almost licked it now, so you've got to take good care of yourself-

Hooker:    That's right.

Strachwitz:    ... and build up your resistance. That seems to be the thing.

Hooker:    My resistance is up pretty good. By me taking the operation and had the bad part cut out so that way I supposed to be cured, but you always can catch it again.

Strachwitz:    Yeah, you got to watch it. It's always something you've got to be careful about. Who do you think are some of the musicians around here that you'd really like to work with that you respect in town? I notice you said a man Moose you call him.

Hooker:    Yeah, Big Moose.

Strachwitz:    Big Moose.

Hooker:    Yeah, he's an organ player. Me and him played together all over the country: California, Texas, everywhere. That’s practically all the states to Chicago, Chicago and the United States. Not all of them, but very many.

Strachwitz:    He's about the best or maybe…

Hooker:    He's about the best piano player, he's about the best organ player, blues man. He's good. Also I played with some of the big boys, too, like Louis Jordan, I played with him on a tour, Sam Cooks and James Brown.

Strachwitz:    Did you tour with him once?

Hooker:    Yeah, I went on a tour with them.

Strachwitz:    How come did you always quit? Did you always feel like you want to lead your own group?

Hooker:    Really, I always liked to have my own group, because I feel better when I've got my own group playing because I play what I want to play.

Earl Hooker
Mel-Lon 1001

Strachwitz:    I see.

Hooker:    You see when you're playing for somebody else you've got to play like they want you to play.

Strachwitz:    Yeah, and that can be a little…

Hooker:    That's right.

Strachwitz:    ... tough after a while, I guess.

Hooker:    See, I likes to play guitar and I likes to do different things on the guitar.

Strachwitz:    Yeah, well you're certainly one of the greatest of all. But I guess like people tell me you perhaps don't have strongest voice in the business, and so people say, maybe that's one reason why you never had a really chance to make it. You're certainly the best guitar man around. Maybe instrumentals will come back one day.

Hooker:    That's right.

Strachwitz:    It's just that now people are paying so much attention to singing.

Hooker:    Yeah, they like singing.

Strachwitz:    I think you have a nice voice, too, but I can see it isn't as strong.

Hooker:    See, the reason my voice are not strong by me having surgery on my lungs, and that kind of takes a little of your wind, too.  So this is the thing.

Strachwitz:    But you sure…

Hooker:    Really, I'm not no singer but I practice it sometime on singing and I always doubt myself.

Strachwitz:    No, I think you have a very pleasant voice, actually.

Hooker:    I be ashamed of myself when I sing.

Strachwitz:    Oh, yeah?

Hooker:    Some peoples tell me that I sound nice, you know.

Strachwitz:    I think you sound very nice. You have a nice timing and nice phrasing. I think on records it really sounds nice. I can see in a club where you got to scream so loud they probably couldn't hear you as good as they can hear somebody like BB Junior.

Hooker:    BB is a singer.

Strachwitz:    Well, he can shout, but…

Hooker:    I would like to be a good singer. If I had that wind I wasn't so ashamed.

Strachwitz:    That's something that you just got to learn to live with.

Earl Hooker
Blue Thumb 103

Hooker:    But I'm not ashamed of playing music.

Strachwitz:    No, that you're not.

Hooker:    Singing I am.

Strachwitz:    I don't think that hardly anybody who can beat you on that guitar.

Hooker:    Really, I've been playing a good 30 years. I've been playing since I was about ten years old.

Strachwitz:    Is that right?

Hooker:    Yeah.

Strachwitz:    You pretty much took music right up to be your work then when you started.

Hooker:    That's right. I have never had a job in my life. I played music all my life. I ain't never had no job.

Strachwitz:    You don't call it a job because you enjoy it.

Hooker:    Playing music's my job.

Strachwitz:    I think that's a good way to put it, because I don't look at my work as a job either because I enjoy what I'm doing. I think if you do that then it doesn't seem to be like a job.

Hooker:    That's right.

Strachwitz:    It's just kind of enjoying life, I think. Well, I was wondering what you might want to say about your own music or something.

Hooker:    Really, I likes to play rock and roll, I likes to play jazz. I likes to play blues. I likes to play a little of everything. I like all types of music.

Strachwitz:    Yeah, I think that's also evident from your development over the years. Like you say, you started with Robert Nighthawk and you play that kind of old funky stuff then with BB King that new kind of picking came along.

Hooker:    Yeah. I done tried it all.

Strachwitz:    I think you become one of the best in that field.

Hooker:    Yeah, I tried it all.

Strachwitz:    I think that shows what a versatile musician you are to pick up the things that they come along and as you hear them. Most people stay in one groove.

Hooker:    Yeah, one thing.

Strachwitz:    Yeah, on one thing.

Hooker:    See, I like music and so this is it. I love it. Then I likes to play different thing. Like I say, I don't like playing on one thing. I likes to change up when I'm on the bandstand. See, I'm different all together. Like when I'm making blues, I makes blues because the older people they enjoy you playing blues and things. Well I have played with big bands, little bands. I have played with five pieces. We was in a little town they call Cairo, Illinois, and they had a big band there. They had Lowell Fulson, hey had his big band from California. This was last year. They was playing on one corner and we was playing on another corner, and both of the clubs is big. He got a good swinging band, now, playing jazz.

Strachwitz:    What's the guy's name?

Hooker:    Lowell Fulson.

Strachwitz:    Oh, Lowell Fulson. Oh, yeah.

Hooker:    Yeah, and he's playing jazz and blues, the same thing we was playing. Only we was a little bit, you know, that soul music as they call. That's what we was playing. They was on the other end playing, and so we had all the people.

Strachwitz:    Is that right?

Hooker:    This is it. The people they would go down there and listen. They was playing them good tunes, but they seemed like they didn't go for that. They was come on back down to where the blues was. This is the thing.

Strachwitz:    You're right, people can tell if you've got the feeling in there.

Hooker:    I have been on shows with peoples like Muddy Waters, and I had a good jazz group. We was playing on the same show and I had a better group than Muddy Waters, but the people seemed like they didn't like no real good music. Muddy Waters was playing the blues and so Muddy Waters and them stole the show from us.

Strachwitz:    Well, he's got that…

Hooker:    Everywhere we went, we was playing this jazz and these tunes and we couldn't make no money. I said, "Well, I'm going to go back and start playing the blues." And so I went back and started playing the blues and got me a blues group and that's where I started making money. So I decide I'll just stick with the blues a little while longer.

Strachwitz:    Don't you think it could be part of the problem there is that a musician can spend all his time listening to music and developing himself, but your audience doesn't really have that time. They just stick with that thing that they grew up with.

Hooker:    That's right.

Strachwitz:    Then they can't really follow what some of the jazz people are doing.

Hooker:    That is really right.

Strachwitz:    I think that's really the problem. A musician has the time to really develop and the public really just stays back there when they grew up and what they heard then that's what they're going to like most of their lives.

Hooker:    That's right. They'll pretend. Now, I have went so some places they pretend that they like jazz. I said, "Now, I'm going to sit here and watch and see what's happening," so I played jazz and don't nobody dance. They pat their hand but yet they dig jazz and so I said, "I'm going to change the set. I'm going to play a couple of blues." Then I plays a couple of blues and everybody get on the dance floor and start slow dancing and patting their feet and this is what they like. They pretend that they like jazz, but when I play the blues they get on the floor and start dancing, so you can figure that by what they like.

Strachwitz:    Yeah, what they really like is…

Hooker:    Yeah, what they really like. You're right.

Strachwitz:    ... something that gets to them. That's true.

Hooker:    This is thing, the thing that keeps me confused.

Strachwitz:    I think it keeps a lot of musicians wondering what's going on because the public never seems to progress, you know?

Hooker:    That's right.

Strachwitz:    They stay pretty much in the style that they grew up with and a musician gets kind of tired of that.

Hooker:    That's right, and so really I try to play some real good music sometimes and they just don't dig it. So I go and play raggley and the ragglier I play it the better they like it, and this is the thing.

Strachwitz:    Yep, I think that's it. What sort of audiences do you like to play best for? Can you remember any times that you really had a really good time?

Hooker:    I went to Houston, Texas with my cousin Joe Hinton. I enjoyed myself down there with him on his show. We had about 5,000 people. I likes to play for any club that got lots of people in it. That's what really give me really soul to play, when I see them people. This is when I'm what you call a freak to, seeing peoples. That's what I like to play to. When I see them peoples then I gets happy and then everything come out of me and I brings everything I can bring out of that guitar to try to satisfy the peoples.

Strachwitz:    I noticed that at the club when I heard you. It's probably very hard to come up in a studio and get that feeling.

Hooker:    That's right.

Strachwitz:    That's a real big problem.

Hooker:    Really imagine if I had been doing this all the time in the studio I probably would have the same feeling.

Strachwitz:    Well, that's pretty hard to duplicate. You can't feel good all the time.

Hooker:    That's right, not all the time.

Strachwitz:    Did you play guitar with Joe Hinton or did you play piano?

Hooker:    No, I was playing guitar and I had my band. Then we left from there and went to Waterloo, Iowa. I got a little thing going there. They had me playing hillbilly music up there.

Strachwitz:    Oh, yeah?

Hooker:    I went to a hillbilly joint where some hillbilly boys was playing and I asked the guy, I say, "Will you let me sit in and play a number." He said, "Man, you don't play rock and roll do you?" I said, "Well, I can play a little rock and roll and I can play a little of that stuff that you're playing, too." He said, "Well, if you can play this good old hillbilly music you're welcome to play." And so he called me on the bandstand and so everybody was looking at me and they said, "Well, this is something that I got to dig," you know, a colored boy playing hillbilly music in a hillbilly joint.

Strachwitz:    Yeah, that's pretty tough.

Hooker:    I went on and started playing the guitar, playing "Walking the Floor Over You" and some of Hank Williams' old records, "Cheating Heart". Now, those kind of numbers that I can sing.

Strachwitz:    Oh, yeah?

Hooker:    Yeah, I can sing those kind of numbers. See, when I was a little boy I used to always watch Gene Autry and them in the movies sing and play the guitar. That was my favorite cowboy. And Roy Rogers. I used to like to see them sing those old Western songs. That's what give me the idea of playing Western music.

Strachwitz:    I see. You were always kind of a step above blues, really.

Hooker:    Yeah, that's right.

Strachwitz:    Because like you say, blues is really pretty raggedy. But I think there's good in all of it.

Hooker:    I played in this hillbilly joint up in Waterloo, Iowa. The man, he liked the way I played. He said, "You about the best guitar player I ever seen that come through here." The guy that I asked let me play a number on his guitar, he give me a job playing in his band. So I was playing hillbilly music.

Strachwitz:    How long did you do that?

Hooker:    I stayed there for six months.

Strachwitz:    Is that right? It was six months.

Hooker:    That right, one club playing every night.

Strachwitz:    That's a good, long time.

Hooker:    Then I recorded some hillbilly tunes with them.

Strachwitz:    Was that one of those old records you gave me, the "Walking the Floor Over You"?

Hooker:    Yeah.

Strachwitz:    Has that got his band on there?

Hooker:    Yeah, his band playing on it. That’s who I was playing with. I had them playing like I want them to play and then I was showing them how to play a little rock and roll, too. So this was a big thing to me.

Strachwitz:    I bet they appreciated it, too. They probably had heard a player like you.

Hooker:    Yeah, they liked it. My cousin Freddy, he's a steel guitar man, so he play all the Steel Guitar Rag and things and they really went for that.

Strachwitz:    He was with you for that?

Hooker:    Yeah, Freddy. The one that play the steel guitar.

Strachwitz:    He's your cousin, is he?

Hooker:    Yeah.

Strachwitz:    Are you related to John Lee Hooker, too?

Hooker:    John Lee Hooker is my cousin, too.

Strachwitz:    On which side? Is he on your mother's?

Hooker:    That's on my daddy's side.

Strachwitz:    On your father's side.

Hooker:    Yeah.

Strachwitz:    I'll be darned.

Hooker:    Yeah, John Lee Hooker. I see them every now and then. It's a whole lot of Hookers of them and the bigger majority of Hookers is in Kansas City. I went and played at the Ninety-Nine Hole in Kansas City, hold about I imagine about 600 people. Half of the peoples in there was Hookers. 300 Hookers. Man, the owner of the club said, "I never seen these many Hookers in my life." He said he couldn't believe it.

Strachwitz:    Where they all come from?

Hooker:    Kansas City, all of them live there.

Strachwitz:    Is that right?

Hooker:    Yeah, they live all over the country. I've got some in California and all down in the southern part.

Strachwitz:    You think they all come from Mississippi to begin with?

Hooker:    Really, all of them come out of Mississippi, all of my people.

Strachwitz:    I'll be darned.

Hooker:    All of them was raised around Vance, Mississippi and Clarksdale, Mississippi. Tutwiler. Yeah, that's where all of them from.

Strachwitz:    Did you ever go back there to play down there?  When you were out in Memphis did you go down to Clarksdale sometimes?

Hooker:    Yeah, I was down in Mississippi about three months ago. I played there in July.

Strachwitz:    Is that right?

Hooker:    Yeah, I went down there the 4th of July.

Strachwitz:    Where do you play down there?

Hooker:    I went to Greenville, Mississippi to the Elks Club.

Strachwitz:    Because they hardly seem to have any joints down there.

Hooker:    Oh, they have plenty.

Strachwitz:    Oh, yeah? You can't find them.

Hooker:    Yeah, plenty. The kind of joints they got down there is boogie-jookie joints, kind of out in the country like.

Strachwitz:    They're really hard to find.

Hooker:    That where all the peoples have all the fun at. They call them juke houses.

Strachwitz:    Juke houses.

Hooker:    Those kind of houses. The peoples really turn out when they have dances. If you've got a name, if you're a good player, well they still turn out.

Strachwitz:    Can you remember any guys down there that you really thought were any good that you heard? Did you hear any of the people who were still playing down there?

Hooker:    I heard some good bands down there, some very good bands down there. Everywhere I went down South the peoples got good bands. You got better bands in the South than there is in Chicago. Really, all of the good players here in Chicago come from the South.

Strachwitz:    That's certainly true.

Hooker:    I went there and I run up on some guys down there and they got nine and ten pieces and I don't see how the man be able to pay all them pieces, but they makes it. This is where all the good stuff come from, the good soul music that they call. This is the thing.

Strachwitz:    Yeah, they got the feeling, I guess, down there.

Hooker:    The biggest thing that I get a kick out of is hearing Little BB and the real BB singing together.

Strachwitz:    You've heard them both sing together?

Hooker:    Yeah, and I was playing a guitar on a show, about… oh, it's been about a week ago. We played out to the Spear. The Burning Spear.

Strachwitz:    The Burning Spear?

Hooker:    Yeah. We went and dug the show when he was at the [?] and so BB King, he know me, and so he invited me over there. Little BB he's my singer. And so we got on the show and we just stole the show from everybody. BB King said, "Well, Earl Hooker, ladies and gentlemen, me and him started out together. He's the best blues guitar player that I ever heard, and I just love to hear him play the slide." Then he said, "Well, there ain't nothing more for me to do." Said, "Earl Hooker done played all the guitar and Little BB done sung all the song and so that's it." I still like BB, too. He like me and I like him.

Strachwitz:    Yeah, he seems to be a nice man, isn't he?

Hooker:    That's it.

Strachwitz:    What people say.

Hooker:    He's a good guitar player and I likes the way he play and he likes the way I play. It's just a thing.

Strachwitz:    Well, I think we've got something in there to…

Hooker:    Anything else?

Strachwitz:    …think about. You just about played with everybody in the act. You mentioned that you played with James Brown on a show and with Joe Hinton.

Hooker:    Yeah, I played with all them.

Strachwitz:    You traveled with Ike Turner? You went down South with him?

Hooker:    Yeah, I played with Ike Turner, all of them. Ike Turner used to play with me. I got some pictures of me and Ike Turner in front of the bandstand.

Strachwitz:    How did you happen to make that on the King record, the first record you made? Did he come to see you?

Hooker:    No. He came… he had a talent scout.

Strachwitz:    Oh, I see.

Hooker:    I was down in Florida, in [Bradenton ?], Florida, playing. This guy come in, heard me play and said, "Would y'all like to make some records?" I said, "Yeah, that would gas me." He heard us play, he liked that group and so he recorded the group the same day.

Strachwitz:    Right down there in Florida?

Hooker:    Right there Florida. He had some kind of compact machine he carried with him.

Strachwitz:    Oh, is that right?

Hooker:    Then he recorded that in the place and carried it on back somewhere, in Ohio up in there somewhere. Then next thing I know he sent us some records out, and the record sold pretty good.

Strachwitz:    Sometimes that's the best way to record. That's the way I like to record, actually, is in the place, because you get the feeling so much better there.

Hooker:    Yeah. That's what happened.

Strachwitz:    It gets harder now. I guess you didn't have as many pieces then did you as you do now?

Hooker:    We had six pieces.

Strachwitz:    Oh, you had six pieces?

Hooker:    Yeah. I always have kept me at least five or six pieces. I consider a trio is nice if you're working in the right kind of club. Really, like when you're playing dances, see, that's all I ever played is dances. I played a few taverns and I stay on the road all the time. You've got to have at least five pieces or six.

Strachwitz:    Yeah, those will wear you out.

Hooker:    See, because just the same people walk in and see three pieces and paying their $2 at the door or $3, well they going to say, "Where's the rest of the band at?" This is what you run into. I have run into some problems like that with bass, drum and guitar, you know, I had three pieces. And the people consider that I didn't have no band. Our manager got me an organ player and two horns and that's it. Then I didn't have no more troubles.


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