Hooker was born on August 22, 1917 in Coahoma County near Clarksdale, Mississippi, USA the youngest of the eleven children of William Hooker (1871–1923), a sharecropper and Baptist Preacher, and Minnie Ramsey (born 1875). Hooker and his siblings were home-schooled. They were permitted to listen only to religious songs, with his earliest musical exposure being the spirituals sung in church. In 1921, his parents separated. The next year, his mother married William Moore, a blues singer who provided Hooker with his first introduction to the guitar (and whom John would later credit for his distinctive playing style). Because of this, it can be said that Hooker was raised in a musical family. He was cousin to Earl Hooker. Hooker was also influenced by his stepfather, a local blues guitarist, who learned in Shreveport, Louisiana to play a droning, one-chord blues that was strikingly different from the Delta blues of the time. The year after that (1923), John's natural father died; and at age 15, John ran away from home, never to see his mother and stepfather again.
Throughout the 1930s, Hooker lived in Memphis where he worked on Beale Street at the New Daisy Theatre and occasionally performed at house parties. He worked in factories in various cities during World War II, drifting until he found himself in Detroit in 1948 working at Ford Motor Company. He felt right at home near the blues venues and saloons on Hastings Street, the heart of black entertainment on Detroit's east side. In a city noted for its pianists, guitar players were scarce. Performing in Detroit clubs, his popularity grew quickly, and seeking a louder instrument than his crude acoustic guitar, he bought his first electric guitar.
|Liveleak on Facebook|