Monday, July 19, 2010

“Hobo Blues”

Do you have a case of the Monday Morning Blues?  If so, you're in the right place! 

“Hobo Blues” is a classic John Lee Hooker song, first issued in 1948.  For those of you who don’t know, Hooker was born near Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1917, right in the midst of the Delta blues country.  Although he is best known for his electric, riff-based songs (which have been covered by everyone from the Animals to ZZ Top), his material had roots in what music critic Robert Palmer termed “the Deep Blues”—music typically associated with artists like Charlie Patton, Son House & Robert Johnson (to name the best known practicioners).  It wasn’t uncommon for this type of music to use a drone-like background, with the 3-chord setting that now typifies the blues being at most implied.  Actually, Hooker wasn’t the only one to bring this type of roots music into the electric blues arena; Muddy Waters & Howlin’ Wolf (to name just two) also had big hits that—in musical terms—never stray far from the “I chord”—you might think of “Catfish Blues” & “Smokestack Lightnin” (again, to stick to two well known examples). 

“Hobo Blues” is just such a song—in my version, it sticks to a D chord (more minor than major), & has two riffs—one copied from Hooker & the other my own invention.  John Lee Hooker played this in open G (guitar’s unfretted strings tuned to a G major chord), while I’m playing in drop D tuning (guitar in standard tuning except the lowest sounding string is tuned from E down to D), so there are significant variations in the arrangements.

Hope you enjoy it. 


  1. I look forward to this with my coffee in california. Thanks for the background. I gained a new appreciation of the blues with George Mitchell's collection of tapes, taken around the country 50 years ago. Now on cd with Smithsonian.
    Have a good week John

  2. Hi Dianne: So glad you enjoyed it! Your support is very much appreciated.

  3. Boom boom boom boom! I'm gonna shoot you right down! I saw Bruce S. do a great cover of that once. The Animals' version is dynamite.

    I really like your music entries -- I always learn something new.

  4. Hi K: Thanks! I never saw John Lee Hooker live, which is a big regret, especially since I was in SF while he had his club going--just never worked out for whatever reason. if you want a real John Lee Hooker treat, check out this song. That's as good as it gets.

  5. "Waterfront" is mind-blowingly great.

  6. Masterful as always John. It maybe Tuesday by the time I have got to it - but the blues are wonderful aby day of the week.

  7. Hi K & Alan

    K: Agreed!

    Alan: Thank you for the kind words! Glad you enjoyed it.


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