John Lee Hooker

Shoreline Amphitheatre (Mountain View, CA)

Nov 2, 1991

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  1. 1 Introduction by Neil Young 01:11
  2. 2 Monologue 00:46
  3. 3 Crawling King Snake 03:14
  4. 4 Monologue 00:44
  5. 5 Hobo Blues 05:15
  6. 6 Ride, Johnny, Ride 03:50
More John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker - vocals, guitar
Terry Gleason - lead guitar

The annual Bridge School Benefit has become a highlight of the Bay Area's concert schedule since in began in 1986. Founded by Pegi Young (married to Neil Young), Jim Forderer, and Marilyn Bozolich, the Bridge School developed educational programs to service the special needs of Bay Area children with severe speech disabilities and physical impairments and has been serving the community for well over two decades now. The annual fundraiser concert has gained support from many of the biggest names in the music industry, with artists performing special acoustic-based sets in the outdoor setting of the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California.

The fifth annual Bridge School Benefit took place on November 2, 1991, and featured performances by Larry Keegan, John Lee Hooker (presented here), Don Henley, Nils Lofgren, Tracy Chapman, Sonic Youth, Willie Nelson, and of course, Neil Young. On this night, Young would perform with a reunited Stray Gators, the musicians who played on his blockbuster Harvest album and would soon be featured again on his forthcoming album, Harvest Moon. It was an emotional time in general for the Bay Area, as the legendary concert promoter Bill Graham had recently been killed in a helicopter accident, and his public memorial service and concert was to be held the following afternoon in Golden Gate Park. (Also available here in the Concert Vault.)

Legendary bluesman, John Lee Hooker's set begins with a humorous monologue from Neil Young. The Bridge School benefit was ostensibly an acoustic endeavor, but Young reverentially declares Hooker as "beyond acoustic" and further states, "he's earned the right to do whatever he wants to do." With that, John Lee Hooker takes the stage with his electric guitar. Accompanying Hooker on this performance is his versatile lead guitarist Terry Gleason, whose resume included work with Gregg Allman, Carlos Santana, among many others.

Although it was difficult for many in the Shoreline Amphitheater to understand Hooker's speech, this Bill Graham Presents recording makes it crystal clear that Hooker was pleased to participate. His opening dialogue is one of encouragement for helping others before he begins a set featuring his unique style of Delta blues. With limited time on stage, Hooker initially boils his performance down to two classic numbers that represent the core of his legacy, "Crawling King Snake" followed by "Hobo Blues." Although both of these songs became prominent at the dawn of the 1960s with the Crown Records release of Hooker's The Blues LP in 1960, both of these recordings actually dated back to the slow blues recordings Hooker made in Detroit back in 1948. Both were originally released as individual sides by the Modern label the following year, where they helped establish Hooker's trademark style of metrically free talking blues and minimalist boogie. The opening number, covered by many, is perhaps most widely known for the cover version by the Doors, but it is "Hobo Blues" that best typifies Hooker's style of slow blues and Gleason's rare combination of finesse, restraint and fire.

Hooker concludes his set with a much newer self-referential number, "Ride, Johnny, Ride," which he would record the following year with John Hammond on lead guitar. This earlier live performance best represents the minimalist boogie style that has come to epitomize Hooker, incorporating a guitar approach closely aligned with boogie-woogie style piano, featuring a walking bass pattern and forceful rhythm. This style lends itself to boundless improvisation, but with limited stage time, Hooker and Gleason keep it concise and to the point, giving the audience just a taste of the Mississippi boogie that has come to define John Lee Hooker's contribution to the blues and the style of playing that launched countless boogie bands over the last half century.