Hooker's recording career began in 1948 when he had a hit single with "Boogie Chillen", performed in a half-spoken style that would become a trademark. Rhythmically, his music was very free, a property which had been common with early acoustic Delta blues musicians. The style been gradually diminishing with the onset of electric blues bands from Chicago but, even when not playing solo, Hooker retained it in his sound. He did, however, maintain a solo career, ever popular with blue afficionados and the folk music fans of the early 60s (thus crossing over to a white audience), and gave an early opportunity to the young Bob Dylan. Another career highlight came in 1989 when he joined up with a number of guest stars, including Keith Richards and Carlos Santana to record The Healer, which won a Grammy award.
Hooker recorded over 100 albums and lived the last years of his life in San Francisco, where he owned a nightclub called the "Boom Boom Room", after one of his hits.