From roughly 1969 to 1974 Detroit radio station WABX broadcast Detroit Tubeworks on an cable-like precursor. The program featured some of the country’s and area’s best musical acts, and although there’s limited existing footage, the program’s concept was the clear predecessor to countless music programs and channels many us have watched over the past 35-40 years – i.e., Rockpalast, MTV, VH1, etc.
The Detroit Metro Times recently dug up some incredible footage of the legendary John Lee Hooker, one of the originators of the electric blues and the man known for bringing the Mississippi Delta blues sound up to Detroit, on Tubeworks. Reportedly shot in 1970, the almost 22 minutes of footage (split in two parts) is severely degraded but miraculously the sound quality has managed to survive the 45 years it took for it to be rediscovered. Backed by an incredible backing band that featured his son Robert, famed percussionist Muruga Booker and others, the footage captures one of the coolest and baddest bluesmen ever playing his bleak, desperate blues. It’s tough music for tough people and even tougher times, speaking to a general sense of isolation, confusion and despair of modern life.
The second part of the footage features an incredible live rendition of “Hobo Blues” that evokes cigarette smoke and whiskey in dark, dark and leanly bars. My words won’t do it justice but I can say that the footage is absolutely captivating.