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That baby talk.

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I am in Chicago on business, drinking $4-a-sixpack beer and looking out at the Perrier-sipping shoppers on the Magnificent Mile from my fourteenth-floor hotel room.

I should probably be out enjoying the nightlife. But I am a solitary sort; and besides, a severe thunderstorm watch is in effect for Cook and surrounding counties, and I have no special desire to get soaked.

While out and about today, I did see a street sign for the Maxwell Street Sunday Market.

The famous open-air market has been moved twice in the past two decades or so. So it’s no longer in exactly the same place it was in the summer of 1979, when John Landis filmed John Lee Hooker and a band of Chicago blues veterans performing “Boom Boom” for the movie The Blues Brothers.

That scene confused the hell out of me when I first saw it as a kid. I couldn’t get my head around this sleepy-looking old guy mumbling about “that baby talk” in between vulpine growls of “a-how how how how!”

It seemed remarkable that two guys could drive so smoothly through a street thronged with foot traffic and not hit anybody, too.

Watching that scene through an adult’s eyes, Elwood Blues’ driving is still pretty unlikely, but I have a little better handle on “Boom Boom” than I did when I was 10.

Here’s the scene:



4 responses »

  1. I don’t remember seeing the last few seconds before. “I wrote this back in the 50s.”, “No you didn’t, no you didn’t!” Who is the harmonica player?

    Also, from Wiki on this song, ‘Hooker had a unique sense of timing, which demanded “big-eared sidemen”.’

    • I didn’t remember the argument either. Maybe it got cut from the network version, which is probably the version I would have seen most often.
      (I think the networks also used to cut the scene where Ray Charles frightens off the would-be thief with a well-aimed gunshot. Not sure why that was so objectionable.)

      The harmonica player behind John Lee Hooker is Walter Horton, a Chicago blues legend variously nicknamed Shakey, Mumbles and Big Walter. He died only about two years after the movie was filmed.

    • You don’t need elephant ears to play one chord for 2:53! OK, there’s stop time, but it’s not like sitting in with Frank Zappa!


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