Watch John Lee Hooker conjure up absolute magic on TV in 1964... with The Groundhogs

 John Lee Hooker performs on UK TV show Ready Steady Go, Kingsway Studios, London
John Lee Hooker performs on UK TV show Ready Steady Go, Kingsway Studios, London, June 1964 (Image credit: Mark and Colleen Hayward)

UK blues rock legends The Groundhogs released their debut album Scratching The Surface in late 1968, but they'd already been plying their trade for over half a decade.     

Formed originally as pop act The Dollar Bills in in 1962, the band toughen up their sound the following year and change their name, inspired by John Lee Hooker's 1951 song Ground Hog Blues

The same year, on October 21, Hooker plays his first UK show at the American Blues Festival, held at Manchester's Free Trade Hall. The final date of an almost month-long tour that consists almost entirely of shows in Germany, it features a startling lineup of blues greats, from Hooker to Big Bill Broonzy, Lightnin' Hopkins and Memphis Slim.

It's no exaggeration to say that the Manchester show plays a huge part in the British blues boom that follows, with attendees including Mannfred Mann singer Paul Jones, Alexis Korner, John Mayall, and – up from London in a battered van – Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Brian Jones and Mick Jagger, who asks bluesman Shakey Jake Harris if he can "have a go" on his harmonica after his performance. 

Cut to the summer of 1964. Hooker returns for his first UK tour, and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers – featuring future Fleetwood Mac star John McVie – are the backing band. They're unable to fulfil the engagements on the final week of the tour, and The Groundhogs get the call. 

They play support and back Hooker at the next few shows, and he likes them so much – in an interview, he calls them "the number one British blues band" – that when he returns to the UK in August he asks for them. The same happens in September. And again in October. 

And then, on October 5, it's a visit to The BBC for The Beat Room, a weekly show focused on pop music and rhythm and blues. Joining Hooker on the show are crooner Tom Jones, pop singer Julie Rogers, The Kinks, and North London r&b group The Syndicats, who feature future Yes guitarist Steve Howe in their ranks. 

Hooker and The Groudhogs play two songs: the classic Boom Boom – a single on Vee Jay two years earlier – and I'm Leaving, released in 1963. And while 29 episodes of The Beat Room are recorded during its lifetime, only one – this one – isn't destroyed as the BBC continue their systematic policy of wiping recordings that exhaust their apparent usefulness. 

What we're left with is a remarkable document, as Hooker and The Groundhogs –  guitarist Tony McPhee, pianist Bob Hall, bassist Peter Cruickshank and drummer Dave Boorman – conjure up a righteous storm. It might not have been the moment that inspired the British blues boom, but it was a moment that brought the real thing into UK households. 

At the end of the year the musicians recorded an album together. A rough and ready collection, ...And Seven Nights saw The Groundhogs handling Hooker's spontaneity with relaxed aplomb, and in 1996, when UK label Indigo Recordings reissued the album, they gave the album a new title, one that reflected the nature of the partnership: Hooker & The Hogs. 

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 36 years in music industry, online for 23. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.