Browse by Title
V W X Y Z #  

Boom Boom


John Lee Hooker

Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

John Lee Hooker first recorded in 1948, and the next year released his classic "Boogie Chillen," which eventually sold over a million copies. In the '50s, he recorded under several different names ("Delta John" and "Birmingham Sam" among them) and refined his craft with constant live performances. By 1962, he was signed to Vee-Jay Records, who teamed him up with seasoned session players and tried to bring his music to a wider audience.

"Boom Boom" was the song that crossed over, marking his only entry on the US Hot 100 and becoming his signature song. Hooker told Bruce Pollock how the song originated: "I used to play at this place called the Apex Bar in Detroit. There was a young lady there named Luilla. She was a bartender there. I would come in there at night and I'd never be on time. Every night the band would beat me there. Sometimes they'd be on the bandstand playing by the time I got there. I'd always be late and whenever I'd come in she'd point at me and say, 'Boom Boom, you're late again.' And she kept saying that. It dawned on me that that was a good name for a song. Then one night she said, 'Boom boom, I'm gonna shoot you down.' She gave me a song but she didn't know it.

I took that thing and I hummed it all the way home from the bar. At night I went to bed and I was still thinking of it. I got up the next day and put one and one together, two and two together, trying to piece it out - taking things out, putting things in. I finally got it down right, got it together, got it down in my head. Then I went and sang it, and everybody went, Wow! Then I didn't do it no more, not in the bar. I figured somebody would grab it before I got it copyrighted. So I sent it to Washington, D.C., the Library of Congress, and I got it copyrighted. After I got it copyrighted I could do it in the bar. So then if anybody got the idea to do it I had them by the neck, because I had it copyrighted. About two months later I recorded it. I was on Vee-Jay then. And the record shot straight to the top. Then, after I did it, the Animals turned around and did it. That barmaid felt pretty good. She went around telling everybody I got John Lee to write that song. I gave her some bread for it, too, so she was pretty happy."
Hooker performed this when he appeared in the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers. It was the only movie Hooker ever appeared in.
Many Blues bands have covered this over the years, including The Animals and The Yardbirds. It has become a Blues standard.
Members of Motown's house band (known as The Funk Brothers) played on this. The Funk Brothers were outstanding musicians and played on hundreds of hit records, but Motown didn't pay them very well, so they would take gigs at other labels in the Detroit area to make extra cash.
Hooker didn't play this live for a long time, because he feared that he wouldn't do it justice. He finally played it in his last two shows before his death.
In 1992, this was used in a UK ad for Levi's jeans. It was re-released that year and went to #16. (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL)
This was used in a 2002 commercial for The Gap. In the ad, it was performed on roller skates by Baba Oje, a former member of Arrested Development. The advertising campaign, dubbed "For Every Generation," used a variety of artists, including Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams, and Natalie Imbruglia.
John Lee Hooker
John Lee Hooker Artistfacts
More John Lee Hooker songs
More songs that were an artist's first hit
More songs used in movies
More songs used in commercials

Comments (6):

On December 5th, 1964, "Boom Boom" by the Animals entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; eventually it peaked at #43 and stayed on the Top 100 for 7 weeks...
It reached #14 on the Canadian RPM Singles chart...
RIP John Lee Hooker (1917 - 2001) and Eric Burton will celebrate his 73rd birthday come next May 11th, 2014.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
The Animals' version in their live show (youtube)is pretty amazing. The mid-60s Animals were in rare form.
- Rise, Exeter, CA
Okay, time for me to get picky here. Although in the extended version of The Blues Brothers, John Lee Hooker refers to what he was playing as "Boom Boom" (and argues with his bandmates over writing it!), what he was playing was actually more of an amalgam of "Boom Boom" and another of his songs, "Bang Bang Bang Bang." In fact, the overall sound is much closer to that of "Bang Bang Bang Bang."
- Sean, Chicago, IL
John Lee also recorded this tine with Big Headed Todd & The Monsters. Well worth seeking out!
- Don, Newmarket, Canada
John Lee Hooker re-recorded Boom Boom for his 1998 album 'Best of friends'.
- Ragnar, Horten, Norway
John Lee was inspired to write Boom Boom by a waitress he knew in a diner. She would make a gun with her hand and go boom boom at john lee telling him she was gonna shoot him right down.
- Ron, Folly Beach, SC
You have to to post comments.
Scott StappScott Stapp
The Creed lead singer reveals the "ego and self-fulfillment" he now sees in one of the band's biggest hits.
Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit and Black Light BurnsWes Borland of Limp Bizkit and Black Light Burns
Wes tells the "Nookie" story, and explains how songwriting compares between Bizkit and Burns.
Randy HouserRandy Houser
The "How Country Feels" singer talks Skynyrd and songwriting.
Songs Discussed in MoviesSongs Discussed in Movies
Bridesmaids, Reservoir Dogs, Willy Wonka. Just a few of the flicks where characters discuss specific songs, sometimes as a prelude to murder.