July 18, 1987 show with the great John Lee Hooker at the Union Bar
in Minneapolis was put together by Morris Wilson, a local jazz saxophonist,
and his girlfriend (who was a special friend of John
Lees.) Neither one seemed to have any experience as a promoter
as far as we could tell. It was also very
unusual for the Union to present a show by an outside promoter on
a Saturday night. The Union was a large bar with a good record of
booking the finest national and local blues acts. I saw Albert Collins
record his live album, Frozen Alive! there and I was introduced
to Muddy Waters by Mojo Buford when he played his final Minneapolis
show at the Union. John Lee wasnt on the road at the time
but flew in for this show along with his guitarist/musical director,
Michael Osborn. Jealous had recently been released to positive
reviews but the mega-stardom of The Healer was still a few
years away. We arrived for rehearsal in the afternoon and found
the PA and amps for John Lee and Michael had not arrived on stage
as planned. We rehearsed for a few minutes with Michael and then
went around the corner to Kramarczuks for lunch. John spilled
Borscht on the neck of some poor guy in a white shirt and left a
pink stripe down his spine. We giggled like fools. I think Michael
thought we were all crazy and would really blow the show as we payed
little attention to his advice on how to play with John Lee, instead
laughingly recounting tales of our own last nights wild behavior.
Showtime came and we met Mr. Hooker - a true gentleman. Dressed impeccably
as always, he generously offered us access to his cooler filled
with soft drinks and beer. We happily accepted and grabbed beers
for the band. I opened another and brought it to him as we headed
upstairs to do the opening set. As we took the stage we learned
that Morris had also put vocalist Willie Walker on the show. Unfortunately,
this was the first mention of it to us and we did not really know
any of Willies material. We played about half of the set alone
and then called up Willie, faking our way though a handful songs.
The crowd seemed to enjoy it almost as much as we did.
Star time came and we did a song or two featuring Michael Osborn
and then called up John Lee. We found out they had a strange keyboard
amp (with a horn!) for John Lee to play through instead of the Fender
called for in the contract. When he sat down to play, his amp and
the PA began to feed back. He initially cussed out everybody involved
on mic and off then played bravely on through the problems. The
sound was never truly fixed all night but no one in the audience
seemed to mind so maybe it was only the stage sound that was bad.
Maybe the audience just didn't care as long as John Lee Hooker was entertaining
them. Somewhere in the middle of the show John Lee remarked to me
that he wished he had one of those beers right about now. I sent
a friend after drinks for us all and John Lee seemed grateful and
rather amazed when a beer showed up for him right before Serves
Me Right to Suffer. While singing that "his-doctor-had-put-him-on-a-diet-of-milk-cream-and-alcohol"
and that he "wasnt-gonna-drink-no-more" he often
looked over at me, then at his half full beer, and smiled.
After the show Michael Osborn remarked that he had no idea how I
had followed him so well, standing on the other side of the stage
and never looking at him. I replied that since I was standing next
to Mr. Hooker I thought Id follow him. John Lee laughed and
signed an autograph for bassist John Lindberg. He carried it in
his wallet for years after the show.
Click here to read what Bob "Bobo"
Bingham had to say about the show...
on John Lee Hooker