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Born to sing the blues

John Lee Hooker Jr. following in his famous father’s footsteps



Who: John Lee Hooker Jr.

When: Monday, Feb. 21

Where: Buffalo Bill’s

Tickets: $15

"If I tried to fill my father's shoes, I'd get cramps in my feet just trying to take one step."

Wishful thinking attributes the above to the current U.S. president, but reality claims the words for the son and namesake of legendary bluesman John Lee Hooker.

To be fair, Hooker Sr., who passed away in 2001 at the age of 83, is considered one of the greatest blues singers of all time. No one in the world could fill his shoes. However, that hasn’t deterred John Jr. from following in his father’s footsteps.

You might say he was born into the business. Junior’s story starts in Detroit, where he was performing on the radio by the age of eight years old and was playing venues like Detroit’s Fox Theatre with Jimmy Reed at the tender age of 16. By the age of 18, he was collaborating with his father on his first recording, Live at Soledad Prison .

Hooker Jr.’s career continued to be tied to dear old dad as a supporting player. Only recently has he stepped out of the legend’s shadow with the release of 2004 solo debut album Blues With a Vengeance.

The album has received much critical acclaim for it’s gritty vocals and tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and garnered a 2005 Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album alongside genre luminaries such as Eric Clapton, Pinetop Perkins, James Cotton and (winner) Etta James. The attention is distinguishing Hooker Jr. as a talent in his own right, with a unique and distinct style, something the artist deems "two parts R&B, one part jazz and down home blues."

A child of Detroit growing up surrounded by that city’s distinct Motown sound, Jr. was bound to turn out somewhat differently from his Mississippi Delta-voiced daddy.

Regardless, his given name and his chosen field have destined him to a lifetime of comparisons, a subject the artist has candidly addressed.

"When you’re the offspring of someone famous everybody wants to see if you live up to them," Hooker Jr. professed to writer Lana K. Wilson-Combs in an article last September for the Sacramento Observer.

"Once you get that validation and stamp of approval from fans and your family’s peers, you’re in. Several blues icons today tell me how much they were influenced by my dad. That’s quite a compliment. Suddenly, they want you to open for all their shows. It makes the old cats really proud to see that you’re a chip off the ol’ block."

John Lee Hooker Jr. and his band bring the blues to Buffalo Bill’s on Monday night. Tickets are $15, available in advance from the venue, at Bestsellers and through promoter Whistler Entertainment at 604-932-2446.