Zakiya Hooker is following in some mighty big footprints.

The Dublin resident is the daughter of John Lee Hooker, one of the greatest bluesmen of all time. She's been singing the blues professionally for more than two decades, having made her stage debut alongside her dad in Oakland in 1991.

Of course, it's a mighty tall task to try and live up the legacy of John Lee, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who died in 2001 at age 83 in Los Altos. Yet the younger Hooker has made great strides. The vocalist has released several well-received albums and has become a popular attraction at blues clubs and festivals in the United States and Europe.

Recently I spoke by phone with Hooker, who is prepping to perform a big show on Thursday at Yoshi's San-Francisco.

Dublin singer Zakiya Hooker returns to Yoshi’s for a concert Thursday.
Dublin singer Zakiya Hooker returns to Yoshi's for a concert Thursday. (Courtesy of Zakiya Hooker)

Q I hear that you are retiring from your "day gig." What do you do for a living, besides singing the blues?

A I am the jury manager for Superior Court of California, Alameda County. I've been with the courts now for 28 years.

Q What's the craziest excuse you've heard from someone trying to get out of jury duty?

A They sent a summons in, and they said that they were deceased. But they put a phone number on there. And you called the phone number, and you asked for the person and they said, 'Yes, this is me.' But then they said they made a mistake and marked the wrong thing.

Q You've balanced both careers for decades. Are you looking forward to being able to concentrate just on your "night job"?


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A Oh, my God, yes. It's truly been a blessing to have had a job that allowed me to work and do my music. It's also a blessing to have a job that, when I leave here, I will have a retirement, so that I am secure and able to do my music.

Q What are your upcoming musical plans?

A Well, there's the Yoshi's show. Then, in June, we'll be starting to travel in Europe. I'll be in Portugal, and I'll be in Italy. I do a lot of my work in Europe. I'd like to do more of my work in the States.

Q How's the state of the blues in Europe these days?

A It's pretty good. It's not like the old days, when (promoters would pay for) airfare and this and that. You have to bargain for what you want. But once you get over there, they treat you very well.

Q Does your last name help or hinder bookings in Europe?

A It used to hinder. But it's gotten a little better. I had to work hard to prove myself and let people know that this is what I am going to do -- that I'm not just here for the short run; I'm here for the long haul. This is what I plan to do until they put me in the ground. But (the last name) kind of helps now because people have begun to know me. They are beginning to look at me as my own entity, which is a really good thing for me.

Q It must have taken years to establish your own identity in the blues community, given who your father is.

A It did. And it was an uphill battle -- just a fight all the way. But when you have a dream, it doesn't matter what people expect. My dad used to always say, "You don't do what other people expect you to do. You do what you do. You do your music like you do. And, in time, people will come to accept you for who you are." And that's what I did. I can't be something that I'm not. I can't be my father. I do some of his songs, but I do them totally the way I do them. But I am truly a blues lover of the old genre that my dad came from -- the old Delta blues.

Q Your latest album is called "Keeping It Real." What does "keeping it real" mean to you?

A It means just what it is. People play these really stupid games. They lie and play these head games. To me, it's about being real. People know what they see is what they get with me. I'm going to be the same today as I am tomorrow. You can expect me to be what you always see. That's what I like to see in people. I don't like to play the games. If I say I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it. If you say you are going to do something, do it.

Follow Jim Harrington at Twitter.com/jimthecritic, Facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.

Zakiya Hooker
in concert

When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Yoshi's San Francisco
Tickets: $22-$26 (www.yoshis.com)

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