Hooker Jr. left blues for ‘good news’
He’s got a famous name, a passion for music and a love for Jesus. This Saturday at the end of the Homer Spit, John Lee Hooker Jr. will share his own blend of gospel funk music and a story of redemption.
“I am a singer — and a preacher,” says Hooker, who is the son of late blues icon, John Lee Hooker.
Although Hooker grew up singing the blues with his dad, he became addicted to drugs and alcohol in his teens, spending years in and out of prison. He’s been shot twice, stabbed once and says he injected cocaine into his neck to get high because the veins in his arms were blown out.
“I was locked up because of my addictions,” says Hooker. “I led the life of a loser, and I was always told that there was a better way.”
Hooker found that better way in 1985, when he says he heard the word “trust.” He was tired, and a chaplain told him that if he was tired, to trust in Jesus.
So he did — but that didn’t mean it was easy.
“I fell, and I got up. I fell, and I got up,” says Hooker.
After becoming sober, Hooker focused on a musical career, releasing six albums, two of which were nominated for Grammy Awards, Blues with a Vengeance in 2004 and All Odds Against Me in 2008.
Despite his success, Hooker says, “I knew the word of God — I knew that this wasn’t everlasting.”
In 2013, Hooker says the Lord led him to enter fulltime gospel ministry, particularly to people in prisons — and, as he puts it, “I left the blues for the Good News!”
He has since earned an associates of arts in Biblical Studies and, this May, received his bachelor of arts in Christian counseling from Newburgh Seminary in Newburgh, Ind.
This August he is releasing a soul gospel album, “My God is Holy.” Hooker says he shares his music and story for the glory of God.
“I want people to have what I have,” he said.
Frank Dahl is the man who produces outreach events with Hooker. A retired blues businessman, Dahl is the former owner and operator of Blues Central, a bar and restaurant in Anchorage. He also produced blues events around Alaska, such as Blues on the Green, and the Alaska Blues Train to Seward, a music tour performed on the Alaska Railroad.
Dahl met Hooker 15 years ago, when Hooker came to perform in Alaska, and Dahl says the chemistry between them was right on.
The men reconnected about four years ago — and discovered that both had made decisions to redirect their lives and become chaplains. Now, they work together to share music and ministry with people in prisons as well as the general public.
As an independent chaplain, Dahl says he lends a helping hand wherever it’s needed, but mostly in Alaska and Arizona prisons. This is the second year that he and Hooker have put together an Alaska tour, doing what they love for a purpose they believe in.
Although Dahl now lives in Tucson with his wife, Sandy, he comes to Alaska with Hooker and is present at all the engagements. Last summer, the men visited three Alaska prisons. This summer, they will visit six.
Dahl says that sometimes, as many as 100 people have come forward to receive prayer after Hooker shares his story.
“We really feel that God has his hand on this effort,” he said.
Although many people help support the ministry financially, and in kind, Dahl says he funds the majority of the costs out of pocket.
“Alaska and God have been unbelievably good to me, and I have been blessed even in light of my shortcomings,” he said. “This is just one way to give back.”
Lanny Simpson, part of the pastoral team at Regent Life Church in Homer, says that Regent has wanted to have some sort of outreach on the Spit involving music. When he learned through friends in Soldotna that Hooker would be doing an event in the Soldotna Park, they connected Simpson with Dahl, to see if Hooker would come to Homer as well. The answer was “yes.”
“It’s pretty exciting to be getting him connected with Homer,” said Simpson, adding that he hopes people will really listen to Hooker’s story.
“My desire is that people will also be able to find a path from difficulties they may be having into a place of hope. That’s my heart,” said Simpson.
Toni Ross is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.
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