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.
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
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
John Lee Hooker died today at his home. He played one of 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!
*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 firstname.lastname@example.org Worth a try.
BLUES BREAKING NEWS!
Deitch is put up
occasionally on the internet.
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.
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