The Groundhogs, who had taken their name from a 1951 Hooker recording called “Groundhog Blues”, of course jumped at the opportunity to back their idol. If they were nervous it didn’t show, and they absolutely nailed the gigs.
Hooker, who was notoriously difficult to keep up with on stage, was in fact so impressed with the band he brought them along on his subsequent tour of the UK the following summer, and into the studio to record material that would eventually end up on albums such as ...And Seven Nights in 1965 and 1970’s On The Waterfront.
Though they were uncredited on the original LPs, the were later recognized when some of the songs appeared on a 1972 Cleve Records release. In 1996, Indigo Records put out Hooker & The Hogs credited to “John Lee Hooker with The Groundhogs”. It features the stripped back recordings from these sessions without horns and other flourishes, that were later dubbed in on the original versions. The result is a lean and ferocious set of electric blues. It is available to stream on Spotify.
Here’s some great footage of “Hooker & The Hogs” from a May 1965 appearance on The Beat Room a BBC2 program on which musical acts performed live for a room full of dancing teenagers. Think American Bandstand without the lip synching…
Hooker is in top form here, and the blues are down and dirty. I have to imagine that the juxtaposition of all these proper youths dancing to this primal, unfiltered, Mississippi Blues must have raised the eyebrow of more than few British parents.
If, like me, you are a fan of blues-based British guitar rock, their discography is definitely worth delving into while you’re counting down the days until spring.
Here’s a taste…