John Lee Hooker could not read or write, but the legendary Delta blues man's estate is hoping to educate a new legion of fans about his 50-year musical legacy.

John Lee Hooker could not read or write, but the legendary Delta blues man's estate is hoping to educate a new legion of fans about his 50-year musical legacy.

The Hooker estate, which is controlled by daughter Zakiya Hooker, has licensed five of his best-selling albums from the '80s and '90s to Shout Factory for release in North America and two discs for release in Europe. The six-figure deal is for seven years.

Out by year's end will be an 84-track, four-disc boxed set, the first ever for Hooker. Shout Factory COO Bob Emmer expects half the material to come from its newly acquired albums, while the other half will be licensed from current rights holders, including EMI, Fantasy and Vee-Jay.

Eugene Skuratowicz, manager of the Hooker estate, says a big payday was a consideration in deciding to license Hooker's music.

"We do need money," Skuratowicz candidly admits to Billboard. Following Hooker's death, the IRS initially evaluated his catalog at $5 million. The estate got the estimate lowered, but still ended up owing $1 million in estate taxes. "Our prime drive is his legacy, but the estate needs to get healthy."

In 2007, Shout Factory will roll out the albums individually, including "Boom, Boom" and "Chill Out" in North America, and "Mr. Lucky" and "The Healer" in Europe. Emmer says North American sales targets are to match, if not exceed, sales of the original albums, most of which sold between 150,000 and 200,000 domestically, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The third component is previously unreleased material that will be refashioned into a duets album. Part of the mission of that project is to reach a new audience, Skuratowicz says. "Young black kids don't know who he is," he says. While rockers such as Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison and Carlos Santana have embraced Hooker, "none of the black superstars have come to bat for John," he says. "I'm going to Stevie [Wonder] and Prince. The only way [kids will be reached] is if we have some A-listers come aboard for this final recording."

The estate is also planning memorial concerts to be held in New York and London that may be bolstered by a traveling revue. "I want to pursue the shows as a yearly franchise for the estate," Skuratowicz says.

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