John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillen”. This hit #1 on Billboard’s R&B chart in 1949. This general sound was not remotely fashionable in that year and this was a very odd song to be a hit. John Lee Hooker’s style of blues looked back to even before the blues had a name and in 1949 one guy and his guitar and not much melody was not generally what people were looking for. But a lot of African-American people during this time had, like John Lee Hooker, migrated from the South to the North looking for jobs, and for many Hooker’s approach was comforting, reminding them of home. The guitar riff in this has always killed me, just the drive and forward motion of it, but I also love the specificity of the words. “When I first came to town, people,” he sings, and the town he’s talking about is Detroit. Hooker moved there from Mississippi to work in an automobile plant. “I was walking down Hastings Street.” That was a street in Detroit where things were happening. And in fact this publicity shot of Hooker was taken on Hastings Street. Something about rolling into town, looking around to see what’s going on, it’s exciting to me. Eventually the neighborhood he’s standing in here was demolished to make way for a freeway.