John Lee Hooker – Boogie Chillen

This is one of the places where rock and roll began.

I knew this sounded familiar…ZZ Top reworked this into their 1973 hit “La Grange.” In 1992, Bernard Besman, who was Hooker’s producer and controlled the copyright to “Boogie Chillen,” sued ZZ Top, but a court eventually ruled that Hooker’s song was in the public domain.

I love any version of this song out there but the two I like the best are the original and when Hooker played with Canned Heat on the album…Hooker and Heat.

In 1948, Hooker showed up at the office of a Detroit record store/label owner named Bernard Besman and presented him with a demo. Besman provided the studio and produced this song for Hooker. They worked together for the next four years, recording many of Hooker’s songs, but Boogie Chillen was the big hit.

The song peaked at #1 in the R&B Charts and sold over a million copies after Besman leased the rights to distribute the song to Modern Records. When the song took off, Hooker still had his day job working as a janitor in a Chrysler factory.

Hooker is the only person performing on the song. The only sounds are his voice, guitar, and stomping feet. The tapping sounds came from bottle caps attached to the soles of his shoes.

“Chillen” is Southern slang for “Children.” This was the first song Buddy Guy learned how to play on guitar. Growing up in Lettsworth, Louisiana in a small house with no electricity or running water, Guy heard this song when a family friend, Henry “Coot” Smith, would come over and play it on his guitar.

Boogie Chillen

Well, my mama ‘low me just to stay out all night long
Oh, Lord
Well, my mama ‘low me just to stay out all night long
I didn’t care she ‘low, I would boogie anyhow

When I first came to town, people, I was walkin’ down Hastings Street
Everybody was talkin’ about the Henry Swing Club
I decided I drop in there that night
When I got there, I say, “Yes, people”
They was really havin’ a ball
Yes, I know

Boogie Chillen’

One night I was layin’ down
I heard mama and papa talkin’
I heard papa tell mama let that boy boogie-woogie
It’s in him and it got to come out
And I felt so good
Went on boogin’ just the same

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

21 thoughts on “John Lee Hooker – Boogie Chillen”

  1. Yes!! This is one of his best. Many would put Boom Boom a little higher on their list of his favorites, but this one to me defines who he is.

    Despite the fact that I had been exposed to lose music off and on early in my childhood, it wasn’t until I saw him perform this in The Blues Brothers that he discovered John Lee Hooker.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh the Blues Brothers were a Godsend to the Blues at the time because they were not selling until they came out. Many of the artists thanked them for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great tune, Max. And I was going to mention that this song was a key reason Buddy Guy became a blues guitarist.

    In the excellent 2021 documentary “Buddy Guy: The Blues Chase The Blues Away”, Guy tells the story how he first met John Lee Hooker. At was at a hotel in Germany. I don’t recall all of the details, but Guy knew that Hooker was at that hotel and he wanted to meet the man who inspired him to pick up the guitar.

    Guy was playing Boogie Chillin’ when suddenly somebody walked up to him, asking wa-wa-wa-what you’re doin’? Not knowing who he was talking to Guy replied he wanted to meet John Lee Hooker. When the other man told him he was Hooker, Guy thought it was joke. He didn’t realize Hooker was stuttering.

    Big Mama Thornton who was there as well and knew Hooker confirmed to Guy that the man he was talking to was John Lee Hooker!

    Guy tells the story much better than I’m recapping it here.

    BTW, do you also still have issues with entering comments? I keep getting kicked out. I’m actually writing this clever comment in Word, so I can copy and paste it from there. It’s quite annoying though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great story Christian! I gotta catch that documentary on Buddy Guy…Thank you man! I’ll watch that. One side note
      on this song…I’ve seen 3 or 4 different spellings of the name of the song lol.

      YES it is still kicking me out of comments. The only way to do it is to type the comment in Word and copy and paste it
      into the comment section…this sucks. I’m angry because WordPress should post something or email us and give us
      an update.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m glad to hear you continue having issues with entering comments as well in the sense that it seems to indicate the problem is on WordPress’s end. At first, I was concerned my laptop was giving up on me. That being said, it really is annoying!

        BTW, I apologize for having been MIA for pretty much all weekend. We’ve been gearing up for a mold inspection and remediation at my house next week, for which we need to temporarily vacate the place.

        I also saw you went to see The Beatles rooftop concert film at the IMAX. That surely sounds like fun.

        I’m still a bit skittish about going to indoor places where people gather, even though the Covid numbers have been trending down.

        My sister and brother-in-law got omicron, even though they were fully vaccinated and boosted and took other precautionary measures, such as wearing masks. Luckily, they are okay – in fact, today was their last day in quarantine.

        Still, when it hits in your own family, I guess you you become more risk-averse!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I just contacted WP and sent them a video of it doing it. No one must have been telling them! Here is what they said:
        Here is what they said…now….

        I’m sure we’ll start receiving quite frequent reports soon. Thanks for bringing to our attention

        I’ll keep you updated shortly! If you need anything else, please feel free to reach us anytime.

        I totally get it Christian…life goes on…if anyone feels your pain…I do. I remember when our email server went down…I was off and on for a month.

        Yes the Rooftop Concert was great man…I had to go because who knows if they will show it again on IMAX….everyone sat way apart so I felt good in there.

        I totally get what you are saying….if Bailey wouldn’t have bought the tickets….I probably wouldn’t have gone but we wore our masks and sat apart from everyone….that made me feel better…but you never know.

        Liked by 1 person

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