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John Lee Hooker Jr.

"Blues Ain't Nothin' But a Pimp"

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According to John Lee Hooker Jr., if he tried to fill his father's shoes, he'd get cramps trying to take one step. The legacy of the great blues master is a shadow over John Lee Jr.'s life and career. And though the younger Hooker doesn't bristle outright about that relationship, his answers suggest he's answered such questions just plenty, thank you.

John Lee Jr. isn't particularly forthcoming about the two decades where he didn't seem to be interested in entertainment, either: One moment he's singing beside his dad onstage; decades later, he's finally releasing his first album, 2004's Blues with a Vengeance, the intervening time lost to alcohol, drugs and related jail time. John Lee Jr. didn't turn it around until after his father's death in 2001, but the 43-year old singer makes up for lost time on his first two releases. His voice is crisp and resonant, gracefully ensconced in eclectic arrangements. "I want it to be always different, new and up-to-date, so there's a little R&B, some funk, some down-home, some jazz, some ballads," says Hooker, speaking of his latest and second, Cold as Ice. "But it's all the blues."

Hooker calls a Grammy nomination and a W.C. Handy Award for his 2004 debut vindication and "leverage. No one can say, 'He's trying to do that,' or 'He's trying to impersonate.'" While he does play a little guitar, he claims to be a novice, which anyone might call himself in his circumstances. He can't say if singing is simply a way to make his own name, preferring to describe his choice as "how the chips fell."

Hooker's signature track is "Blues Ain't Nothin' But a Pimp," a horn-fueled, Chicago rave-up that would seem—judging from his hard stretch—to be largely empirical.

"The pimp pressures the girl to do her thing, and to satisfy him, she does. Well, the blues is the same way. When you get it you got to go and satisfy it," Hooker offers. "Things change: The Cadillac isn't that big anymore. No need to wear platform shoes. Things change, and I'm grateful for that."

John Lee Hooker Jr. plays the Blue Bayou Club Friday, Sept. 28, at 9:30 p.m.

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