Lonnie Brooks

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Lonnie Brooks
Birth name Lee Baker, Jr.
Born (1933-12-18) December 18, 1933 (age 81)
Dubuisson, Louisiana, United States
Genres Chicago blues, electric blues
Occupation(s) Musician, singer
Instruments Vocals, electric guitar
Years active 1953–present
Associated acts Ronnie Baker Brooks, Wayne Baker Brooks, Eddy Clearwater
Website www.lonniebrooks.com

Lonnie Brooks (born Lee Baker Jr., December 18, 1933)[1] is an American blues singer and guitarist. He was born in Dubuisson, Louisiana, United States.[1] Rolling Stone stated, "His music is witty, soulful and ferociously energetic, brimming with novel harmonic turnarounds, committed vocals and simply astonishing guitar work."[2] The New York Times added, "He sings in a rowdy baritone, sliding and rasping in songs that celebrate lust, fulfilled and unfulfilled; his guitar solos are pointed and unhurried, with a tone that slices cleanly across the beat. Wearing a cowboy hat, he looks like the embodiment of a good-time bluesman."[3]

Career[edit]

He learned to play blues from his banjo-picking grandfather, but did not think about a professional career until he moved to Port Arthur, Texas in the early 1950s. There he heard live performances by Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, Long John Hunter and others and began to think about making money from his music. One day, while Brooks was strumming his guitar on his front porch in Port Arthur, Clifton Chenier heard him and offered him a job in his touring band.[citation needed]

Embarking on a solo career, he adopted the moniker of Guitar Jr. and signed with Lake Charles's Goldband label. His singles for the label included regional hit "Family Rules", which remains a favorite of the swamp pop idiom in south Louisiana and southeast Texas.[4] Other Goldband singles included "Made In The Shade" and "The Crawl" (later recorded by The Fabulous Thunderbirds).

In 1960, he moved to Chicago, Illinois. Luther Johnson was already using the name 'Guitar Junior' there, so he adopted the alternative stage name, Lonnie Brooks.[1] In Chicago, he found regular work in the West Side clubs as well as in Gary and East Chicago, Indiana and occasionally in the Rush Street North Side entertainment area. He cut a series of 45s for a variety of labels, including Chess, Chirrup, Mercury, Midas and USA Records, achieving some local radio airplay. He also supported other artists on record and live, including Jimmy Reed. In 1961 he played guitar on the double album, Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall.

In 1969, he recorded his first album, Broke An’ Hungry, for the Capitol label. It was produced by Wayne Shuler, son of Eddie Shuler, who had founded Goldband Records in Louisiana.

In 1974, Brooks participated in a multi-artist tour of Europe, and cut an album entitled Sweet Home Chicago for the French label Black & Blue. When he returned to Chicago, he began playing regularly at Pepper’s Hideout on the Chicago's South Side. There he attracted the attention of Bruce Iglauer, head of the fledgling Alligator Records label, who had previously seen him a number of times at the Avenue Lounge on the city’s West Side.

In 1978, Iglauer included four of Brooks’ songs (including three originals) on an anthology series entitled Living Chicago Blues, released by Alligator Records. He was signed to the label, and the following year, he released his album Bayou Lightning on the Alligator label.[5] The album won the 'Grand Prix du Disque Award' from the 1980 Montreux Jazz Festival. While in Montreux, Brooks befriended country star Roy Clark. Clark was impressed with Brooks, and he arranged for an appearance on the country music television program Hee Haw.

Since that time, Brooks has recorded exclusively for the Alligator, releasing seven albums as well as shared recordings and compilation appearances. Brooks' style, sometimes described as "voodoo blues", includes elements of Chicago blues, Louisiana blues, swamp pop and rhythm and blues. Other labels have issued pre-1978 recordings by Brooks as well as compilations of Brooks' singles.

Following the release of Bayou Lightning, Brooks began touring nationwide as well as returning to Europe. A 1982 trip to Germany resulted in an hour-long Brooks live performance on German television. His 1983 follow-up album was Hot Shot. 1986's Wound Up Tight featured a guest appearance by Brooks' most famous fan, Johnny Winter, on guitar. Rolling Stone took notice of the album, running a six-page feature on Brooks. And in 1987, BBC Radio broadcast an hour-long live performance.

By this time, Brooks' teenage son, Ronnie Baker Brooks, was touring with the band. He made his recording debut on his father's Live From Chicago—Bayou Lightning Strikes. Brooks’ 1991 release, Satisfaction Guaranteed, received major media coverage, including features and articles in The Washington Post, The Village Voice, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Guitar World, Living Blues, Blues Revue, and many other publications.

Brooks spent the summer of 1993 on a national concert tour with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Junior Wells and Eric Johnson. During the Chicago stop of his 1995 “From The Cradle” club tour, Eric Clapton honored Brooks by inviting the bluesman on stage for an impromptu jam at Buddy Guy's Legends club.

In 1996, Brooks released Roadhouse Rules. The album was produced in Memphis by Jim Gaines, who also produced Luther Allison, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Santana, and his son Ronnie Baker Brooks appeared again. In 1999, along with fellow Gulf Coast blues veterans Long John Hunter and Phillip Walker (both of whom he had known and played with in the 1950s in Port Arthur), Brooks released Lone Star Shootout.[6]

Brooks continues to tour in the U.S. and Europe. His sons, Ronnie Baker Brooks and Wayne Baker Brooks, are also full-time blues entertainers, fronting their own bands and touring extensively in the U.S. and abroad. Wayne Baker Brooks continues to play in his father's band as well. The Brooks' are frequent guest performers at each other's shows and have booked appearances as 'The Brooks Family'.

Besides his live and recorded performances, Brooks appeared in the films Blues Brothers 2000 and The Express and in two UK television commercials for Heineken beer. His song "Eyeballin'" was heard in Forever LuLu, and "Got Lucky Last Night" featuring Johnny Winter appeared in John Candy's Masters of Menace. He also co-authored the book Blues for Dummies, along with son Wayne Baker Brooks and music historian, guitarist, and songwriter, Cub Koda.

Brooks is a chief influence on Soul artist Reggie Sears.[7]

Discography[edit]

  • 1999 Lone Star Shootout (with Long John Hunter and Phillip Walker) (Alligator)
  • 1997 Deluxe Edition (Alligator)
  • 1996 Roadhouse Rules (Alligator)
  • 1993 Let’s Talk It Over (1977 session), (Delmark)
  • 1991 Satisfaction Guaranteed (Alligator)
  • 1988 Live From Chicago-Bayou Lightning Strikes (Alligator)
  • 1986 Wound Up Tight (Alligator)
  • 1985 Live at Pepper’s (Black Magic) (reissued on Black Top, 1996)
  • 1984 The Crawl (Charly) (as Guitar Jr.) (reissue of Goldband singles)
  • 1983 Hot Shot (Alligator)
  • 1981 Turn On The Night (Alligator)
  • 1980 Blues Deluxe (Alligator/WXRT)
  • 1979 Bayou Lightning (Alligator)
  • 1978 Living Chicago Blues, Vol.3 (Alligator)
  • 1975 Sweet Home Chicago (Black & Blue) (reissued on Evidence Records, 1994)
  • 1969 Broke An' Hungry (as Guitar Jr.) (Capitol)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 95. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  2. ^ Palmer, Robert. Rolling Stone, 31 May 1979
  3. ^ Parales, Jon. The New York Times, 16 March 1992
  4. ^ Shane K. Bernard, Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996), p. 58.
  5. ^ Allmusic biography - accessed February 2008
  6. ^ "Allmusic ((( Lone Star Shootout > Review )))". 
  7. ^ "Reggie Sears Artist Guide". All Music Guide. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 

External links[edit]