The 12 bar blues is the structure upon which the blues is built. It provides the framework to sit down in a room full of musicians you've never met, decide on a key, figure out a feel (shuffle, straight beat, or stomp rhythm), and play together. That's the beauty of the 12 bar blues.
Lightnin’ Hopkins never played consistent 12 bar blues as he was so famously quoted "Lightnin’ change when Lightnin’ want to change."
Lightnin' was one of the coolest cats that ever played the blues. The man oozed swagger. This video is part of a documentary film "The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins" by Les Blank, who filmed this scene after Hopkin's wife had left after a nasty argument that caused her cousin to come by and attempt to shoot him. Lightnin' has a loaded pistol tucked in the front of his pants when he's playing this tune.
"I hate to think of not having a Lightnin' Hopkins. The blues would never have been what it turned out to be. He was a great player, he didn't put sugar on anything. He just played it." – B.B. King