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John Lee Hooker Boogie Chillen original 1948 version

Lyrics

 

Well, my mama, she didn’t ‘low me just to stay out all night long, oh Lord
Well, my mama didn’t ‘low me just to stay out all night long
I didn’t care what she didn’t ‘low–I would boogie-woogie 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 boogiein’ just the same

Songwriters
HOOKER/BESMAN

Read more: John Lee Hooker – Boogie Chillen’ Lyrics | MetroLyrics

  • John Lee Hooker grew up on a plantation in Mississippi and eventually made his way to Detroit, bypassing the blues hotbed of Chicago.

    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 went to the top of what was then known as the “race” 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.” The song is known by a variety of titles, including “Boogie Chillun” and “Boogie Children.”
  • When Hooker sings about going to Henry’s Swing Club on Hastings Street, he’s referring to a real club in the Black Bottom section of Detroit. The area, which is where the Black Bottom dance got its name, was home to various Blues clubs, speakeasies, pool halls and other places of ill repute. Before Hooker arrived, musicians like Maceo Merriweather and Beulah Wallace performed there along with many traveling musicians. Hastings Street was wiped out in 1957 when the highway I-75 was built through it.
  • Hooker recorded two more versions of this song, including a remake in 1970 with the band Canned Heat. It was included on an album called Hooker ‘n’ Heat
  • 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.
  • Hooker died in 2001 at age 83.
  • In the book Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography, Jerry Leiber tells of hearing this song for the first time. He was working at a record store called Norty’s circa 1950 while still in high school. Lester Sill, a sales manager for Modern Records, came into the store and started playing demos for Leiber, mistaking him for the store owner. Leiber loved the music because it reminded him of Hunter Hancock’s radio show. He says of the song, “Suddenly the epiphany re-exploded, expanded, and knocked me on my ass.” This experience re-affirmed his ambition to someday write songs. In the ensuing years, Lester Sill became Leiber and Stoller’s mentor as they entered the music business.
  • 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. Guy would play what he could of the song on homemade instruments, and when he turned 13, his dad bought Coot’s guitar for Buddy, and he was soon playing “Boogie Chillen” on the instrument.

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