THE DELTA 349 JOHN LEE HOOKER John Lee Hooker, one of the most unique and prominent blues musicians of all time, was born on a cotton plantation near Clarksdale in August 1917. One of eleven children in a family of sharecroppers, Hooker gained much of his musical influence from his family and community. Because his father was a minister, Hooker’s early exposure to music came from gospel songs heard in church every Sunday. But Hooker learned the blues—specifically his so- called “country-boogie” style—from his stepfather, Will Moore. Hooker was also influenced by bluesmen who visited his home, such as Charley Patton, Blind Blake, and Tony Hollins, who dated Hooker’s sister and gave him his first guitar. After spending his early years working in the cotton fields of Vance and Lambert, the teenaged aspiring musician left the Mississippi Delta for Memphis, and later Cincinnati, in hopes of making it big. In Memphis, Hooker worked on Beale Street, where he found the opportunity to play with successful blues artists like Robert Nighthawk. Hooker’s career breakthrough came later when he settled in Detroit in the 1940s. In 1948, he signed with Sensation Records to record his first songs, several of which quickly gained critical acclaim. The following year, his song “Boogie Chillin” reached number one on the Rhythm & Blues charts, and in 1951, his song “I’m in the Mood” also reached number one, selling over a million singles. Hooker recorded songs for several labels under his real name, but he also used a number of pseudonyms, including The Boogie Man, Delta John, John Lee Booker, Texas Slim, and others. Over the years, Hooker drew from a variety of genres to form his distinct style, but he always stayed true to his Delta roots. Hooker’s style influenced rock artists of the 1960s and 1970s, shaping the genre for years to come. Hooker collaborated with numerous well- known bands and solo artists, including Van Morrison, Canned Heat, and others. With the release of his 1989 album The Healer, Hooker again gained national popularity. In 1997, Hooker brought a taste of the blues to San Francisco when he opened a club called John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Room, named after his 1962 hit “Boom Boom.” Throughout his career and after, Hooker received numerous awards, including four Grammys, a Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award, and a Hollywood Walk of Fame star. He is also a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as the Blues Hall of Fame. In June 2001, Hooker passed away in his sleep at his Los Altos, California, home at the age of eighty-three. After his death, his friend and fellow musician Bonnie Raitt said of Hooker, “John Lee's power and influence in the world of Rock, R&B, Jazz, and Blues are a legacy that will never die.” PHOTO COURTESY OF BLUES ARCHIVE, UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI Despite King’s age and some recent health setbacks, the president declared that “the thrill is not gone. America loves the music of B. B. King, and America loves the man, himself.” On May 14, 2015, King died in Las Vegas due to a series of strokes caused by his type 2 diabetes. His body was taken from Las Vegas to Memphis. Following a processional on Beale Street, a hearse carried King way down Highway 61 into the Delta, where large crowds lined the highway in anticipation of his journey home. He is buried at the B. B. King Museum in Indianola. Over the past two decades, state and local governments have teamed up with the private sector to preserve and honor the Delta’s history and culture. The Mississippi Freedom Trail contains a series of historical markers commemorating key people, places, and events in the Civil Rights Movement. As a testament to the importance of the Delta to Mississippi’s civil rights history, four of the first six markers were unveiled in the Delta. Today, Freedom Trail markers are located in Money (the Emmett Till murder), Ruleville (Fannie Lou Hamer), Parchman (the imprisonment of Freedom Riders), Cleveland (the Amzie Moore House), Clarksdale (Aaron Henry’s drugstore), Greenwood (Broad Street Park and Stokely Carmichael’s call for “black power”), Belzoni (George Lee’s Home), and Mound Bayou (the T.R.M. Howard House). Throughout the year, Delta cities and towns host a variety of music festivals. Blues festivals, of course, are the most popular and attract people from across the state, the country, and even the world. Powerful Delta music can still be heard in clubs across the region, particularly at places such as Red’s and Ground Zero in Clarksdale and the various casinos in Tunica and Greenville. Three area museums have also become central to the Delta tourist industry. Indianola is the home of the B. B. King Museum, which contains a highly