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67 ı was interviewed in 2001 by a young man who was writing about Detroit blues. As he researched this seminal music of the city, his work increasingly focused on my late father, Joe Von Battle. From the mid-’40s until 1967, my father recorded dozens of blues and gospel artists,most in the recording studio in the back of his record store, Joe’s Record Shop, and on location in churches and clubs. He recorded Little Sonny, Johnnie Bassett, Sonny Boy Williamson II, the Meditation Singers (with Della Reese), the Violinaires, Bro. Will Hairston, and the list goes on and on; artists famous and artists unknown except in the arcane world of blues-record collectors. Joe Von Battle was the sole producer of the over seventy-five albums of sermons and songs by the legendary Reverend C. L. Franklin, the “Man with the Million-Dollar Voice.”He was the first to record the million-dollar voice of Franklin’s daughter, Aretha, and produced her earliest gospel records, which she recorded at the age of fourteen. He also produced records by John Lee Hooker (at first, at the now-iconic United Sound Studios in Detroit), but that wasn’t a singular achievement because Hooker recorded with just about anyone who would put his voice on tape. He even recorded under other names, like John Lee Booker. Nevertheless, he and my father were good friends, and John Lee Hooker hung around Daddy’s store and back-room studio, and sometimes slept on the couch in the back of the shop for days at a time. One day in 1959, a photographer, Jacques Demetre, and a writer, Marcel Chauvard, came to the United States from France; they were writing a book about the blues, and they stopped in three cities—Chicago,New York,and Detroit.When they got here, they went straight to Joe’s Record Shop, as they had heard that it was the place for the blues. John Lee Hooker and Joe Von Battle No Magic, Just Men Marsha Music John Lee Hooker. © Leni Sinclair Collection. 68 deTroıT blues When they arrived, my elder brother, Joe Jr., was there; when my father got there, he picked up the phone and called his friend Aaron Willis, a.k.a. Little Sonny, and told him that there was a man from France that had come to take pictures. My father made another call, too, and soon, John Lee Hooker came from around the corner of Mack onto Hastings Street. Joe Jr. says that the French photographer almost fainted—he was so astonished and delighted to see the already legendary bluesman come into view. Demetre snapped John Lee Hooker in front of the record shop, and eventually the photo he took became an iconic album cover; John Lee, dapper in slacks and a white shirt, posed with his guitar on the sidewalk in the same spot where my father, mother, and her sisters always stood for photos back in the day. The camera faces north, up Hastings Street; the spire of St. Josaphat on Canfield Street is in the background on the left. Hastings is long gone, most of it is a freeway service road now, but that church is still there, one of the few remaining structures adjacent to Hastings Street from back in those days. Several amazing blues photographs came from that shoot,including one of Little Sonny in the same spot.As of this writing,in 2015,Demetre is still alive in France—a nonagenarian—and remembers his long-ago visit very well; my brother, approaching eighty, recounts it like it was yesterday. So, back to the young writer who was interviewing me in 2001—he had decided to travel from Michigan to California to interview Mr.Hooker,who had, by then, become a very old man. As he prepared for this trip,I gave him a copy of an old photo to take with him; it was of John Lee and my father hanging out at a bar in Detroit, back in the day. As the writer prepared to leave for San Francisco, we were both aware of Mr. Hooker’s advanced age. We understood the import of this San Francisco trip—we had a sense, unspoken, that this young writer might be one of the last to have an audience with this great blues man, that John Lee Hooker might not have many more interviews to give. I asked the young writer to relay my familial greetings to...


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