When I was young, like most teenagers of my generation, my musical tastes were formed watching episodes of Countdown and the hit songs of the era. By my mid to late teens however, I started to notice there were many more flavours available than those found in the top 40. As a consequence, thankfully, my taste became more diverse. I started noticing there was other music around. The songs I was really starting to like were barely scraping in to the top 40, if at all, and the taste of some of my peers was far more appealing than what I was hearing on the radio. Then I saw a film called The Blues Brothers. This was a few years after its release when it had made it to VHS video. What a soundtrack!
After listening to the soundtrack, which I loved, I noted an absence of one of my favourite tracks played during the film. There was a man playing in the street, wearing a white hat, sitting down performing a fantastic song with an amazing rhythm. It would be a couple of years before I would find out this was none other than the inimitable John Lee Hooker. Over the years I came to not just know his music, but to love it.
I turned 18 years old 11 days after I started my first full time job. One of my colleagues, who was unable to attend my 18th birthday party, gave me a vinyl album as a gift a few days later instead. That album had some great tracks on it. Who Do You Love?, Reelin’ And Rockin’, One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer and The Sky Is Crying just to name a few. The album was George Thoroogood “Live“, released in 1986.
I was so impressed with the album’s songs, and I’ve always been a sucker for music trivia, that I took note of the songwriters once I realised they weren’t Thorogood compositions and then set about tracking down the originals. Wow! What a journey I was on. This one album helped me discover the music of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Elmore James, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. Other Thorogood albums lead me to Howlin’ Wolf, Big Bill Broonzy, Willie Dixon and more. I discovered I really enjoyed the blues. I’d always liked Eric Clapton too and now I was finding out why. Clapton’s music also helped me discover other blues musicians. In the following years I started getting into Freddie King, Albert King, Albert Collins, Robert Johnson and B.B. King.
I was quite saddened to hear of B.B. King’s death recently but I am grateful I got to hear his music and even more grateful I got to see him perform live in concert. Hard to believe that was 26 years ago, at the Canberra Theatre in 1989.
In terms of blues performers my only regret was to not have had the opportunity to see John Lee Hooker live. What I’d give to hear him kick off with “Boom boom boom boom…”