John Lee Hooker: Detroit 1948-1949

These raw solo recordings were originally done under surreptitious circumstances. While still signed to Modern Records, Hooker cut a number of tracks for various other companies under the guise of Alabama Slim, Texas Slim, Delta John and Birmingham Sam, among other pseudonyms. These solo recordings, done in the back of Elmer Barbee’s record store in Detroit, were sold to John Von Battle, proprietor of Joe’s Record Shop in Detroit on November 26, 1948. Three weeks later, Von Battle in turn sold them to Savoy Records. Savoy president Herman Lubinsky then released them on a shell company he set up, Acorn Records, to avoid being sued by Modern or any other company that might contest the original source of the master tapes. Legalese aside, these recordings highlight Hooker in an unaccompanied setting doing what he does best: Free-form nonrhyming poetry flowing over hypnotic boogies and one-chord drones. The fidelity may be subpar here but the performances are typically riveting.