Joe Louis Walker on 'Blue Guitar' by Earl Hooker
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The Independent Culture
I used to play with Earl in the Sixties, and as far as slide guitarists go, he was the premiere. "Blue Guitar" was his signature song. It was an instrumental - he didn't need a singer because he played it so well. I first heard it before I was playing with him, and then I got to know him when he played where I lived. Then, finally, I got to play with him and it was just a revelation to hear him do it every night.

He was such an effortless player. Whereas most slide guitarists will tune to a chord, Earl played in standard tuning, but his touch was so light that he never fluffed a note or ran the strings together. He was a genius.

It was a great honour and experience for me to be around him and hear him play. It was most unorthodox because he had a lap-steel player in addition to his own slide, a guy named Freddy Roulette. I'd never seen that combination then, and I haven't since. It created a full, rich sound - very strange, but at the same time entirely natural.

The sound on "Blue Guitar" is also very full - it has a harmonica, and there's a sax on it too. I recorded it live, and I changed the song by putting a break in the middle. But no one could play it like Earl. I've heard numerous people do it, but nobody, myself included, has been able to capture that vocal quality which he had.

I covered "Blue Guitar" because I wanted to pay my respects to him - he didn't live to get any of the accolades that a lot of people got. His cousin John Lee Hooker is very well known, of course, but Earl never got the acclaim he deserved.