We'd hardly had a chance to enjoy all of this, when I received a bombastic phone call from John Lee Hooker's manager, Mike Kappus, who threatened to sue me for every penny I had, and accused me of "raping" John Lee Hooker! - this in spite of the fact that I was not profiting from the release at all, and that I had instructed that all royalties go to Hooker. It became clear that Kappus was mainly furious that he didn't control the recordings. He sicked his lawyer on me, who contrarily took a soft tone and offered to buy the tapes from me. A fine legal point was raised. The performance clearly belonged to John Lee Hooker, but the taped preservation of the performance belonged to me. The performance was in the public domain in Europe and other parts of the world, but not in the United States, where 75 years are required to put a performance in public domain.

I wasn't going to dispute any of that at all. What I wanted was some assurance that my CD would not be buried, and that John Lee Hooker would hear it personally. I was convinced he would love it, and that I could surely arrange an accord with him personally. But I was shielded form any personal contact by Kappus and his lawyer, so I dug in my heels and refused to sell.

"You don't have anything to sell anyway!" they said. All we have to do is copy your CD, and do anything we want with it!" But I pointed out that they would in fact not be copying my original paper tapes, but an expensive restoration financed by InterState Music Ltd! That seemed to create a stalemate, but with the obvious limitation that my recordings could not be distributed in the USA.
They could not steal my recording, but I could be stopped from releasing it.

The impasse was broken by yet another miracle: An email from the blue, which started out:

"Hello Mr. Deitch, My name is Zakiya Hooker. I am John's Daughter. I was born April 1, 1948, one year before your recording. I would like to say thank you for keeping the recordings that you made safe and sound. It was really an effort of love and respect for the music and my father that made for you to even want to record him. I am so glad that you saw the greatness and the pure love my father had and still has for the music…."


That message changed everything! It led to a fevered exchange of messages, revelations, and a beautiful relationship that promised to solve all problems and assure the life of my recordings. Zakiya herself was revealed as a great blues singer. John Lee Hooker was revealed as being illiterate and being kept in the dark about this entire situation by Kappus and the lawyer.

He was 84 years old, arthritic, unable to play the guitar as he once did, yet he was being exploited by Kappus to make difficult journeys for token concerts. Kappus was trying to drain the last drop of blood and profit from his weakening client. It became clear just who was "raping" John Lee Hooker!

She played my CD for her father, and just as I had hoped, he loved it. Quite understandably, at 84 years of age, and 51 years after the event, he couldn't remember our recording session, but when I finally met him again, at his California home, he told me, "I can't remember doing it, but I know that's me all right!

A great new project now emerged. This is what I suggested: If Zakiya, who was just one year old at the time I recorded her father in Detroit, would now record those same songs in her own style, we might have the blues double-album of the century! The old father, the legendary last of the Delta bluesmen, would be passing on his legacy to the next generation! What a great story, I thought!

So now we have a contract. I have turned by master recordings over to Zakiya, and this amazing story is ready to step up to yet another level. The original Flyright release is already a rare collectors' item. It will soon be worth a lot. If you were one of the lucky ones who got a copy, hang on to it!* Paul and I feel that whatever happens next, we have already played a part in blues history.

As you may have heard or read, this fantastic story now has a new and sadder chapter. On June 21,2001 John Lee Hooker died at him home, as pictured above. 51 years earlier, as he approached his 33 birthday, he sang for me, "I've got the 33 Blues. God knows I can't last long!" Fortunately for the world of blues, he lasted more than 50 years longer! I heard the news of his ultimate death the next morning on my car radio, and a day later I received this email message from Zakiya's manager, Eugene Skuratowicz.:

Gene, John Lee Hooker died today at his home. He played one of the best
shows I have seen him perform last Saturday the 16th, just 5 days
before he died. His guitar playing was awesome, he played a lot of
guitar and he stood through the entire set ending boogie without
leaning on anything for support.
This was the last show of John Lee's life. When I talked with him
right after his set, he was beaming with life, smiling and more relaxed than
I've seen him in a long time. Fito de la Para, from the famous white blues band
Canned Heat, was his drummer at the Saturday show, and John's last
words to Fito after the show were "Fito, I'm the king of the boogie,
but Canned Heat, Canned Heat played the boogie the best."

What Eugene didn't mention was whether that last concert was recorded, but I immediately thought of what a fabulous double CD album it would be to pair John Lee Hooker's first recorded concert, (my 1949 recordings), with his last!
Stay tuned while I look into this. I can't press Zakiya while she is in mourning.

*By the time you read this, all copies of the original edition may be gone. Your last chance source for "The Unkown John Lee Hooker" CD may yet be from sales@redlickrecords.com Worth a try.


BLUES BREAKING NEWS!
The “rarest of the rare” John Lee Hooker 1949 private recordings are at last, on Eagle Rock Records, from May 18th 2004 in the USA, then to the wide world!


The full story of how these sensational recordings were made begins on page 10 of this newsletter.If you were not among the lucky few who were able to buy a copy of the original “unauthorized” CD on the British Flyright label, it's now available on Eagle Rock with a new title: Jack O'Diamonds.

I contracted with John Lee Hooker personally, shortly before he died, giving him the rights to my recordings, clearing the way for an official release. Billboard Magazine wrote:

“Eagle Rock will ...issue a 1949 Hooker session recorded at the [Detroit] home of animator Gene Deitch.These intense solo sides ...were previously available only as an unauthorized import.”

You can hear tantalizing samples of these critically acclaimed “most magnificent John Lee Hooker recordings ever” on page 14 of this edition of
The Occasional Deitch. Read the whole story of how they came to be, listen to the 30 second excerpts, and rush out to get the whole thing, "Jack O'Diamonds" on a brilliantly restored CD from Eagle Rock!
[90% of the income goes to the John Lee Hooker Estate.]



 

The Occasional Deitch is put up occasionally on the internet.
©2000-2010 by Gene Deitch It's all done with Macintosh Leopard and MS Word 2003.
Complaints can be addressed to genedeitch@yahoo.com, but complaints
are generally ignored., so don't bother. If you at all wonder who I am and
where I'm coming from, read my book, www.fortheloveofprague.com .
My physical location is at Hellichova 11a CZ-118 00 Prague 1, in The
Czech Republic. I am an elderly individual of the Earthling species.
I put out this newsletter as a compulsive act. Bear with me! And keep
checking in: Occasionally I may put in something really interesting. Don't miss it!

Read my book of communist era memoirs, "For The Love of Prague," (info at www.fortheloveofprague.com and watch for the feature-length documentary movie of the same title.

 

  next page >