Lonnie Brooks (Born Lee Baker)
December 18, 1933 – April 1, 2017
According to a press release from Alligator Records, Lonnie Brooks passed away on Saturday, April 1, 2017 at the age of 83. Cause of death was not immediately released. Over the course of his 60-year career, Brooks recorded 11 full albums and dozens of 45s for a number of labels. His career began in Port Arthur, Texas in the mid-1950s. Recording under the name Guitar Junior, he scored a string of regional hits, including “Family Rules” and “The Crawl” for the Goldband label. The success of his singles led to numerous southern tours and a busy performance schedule that included dancehalls, juke joints and roadhouses across Texas and Louisiana. In 1959, Brooks befriended the great Sam Cooke, who suggested his move to Chicago. Once settled, he changed his name to Lonnie Brooks (Chicago already had a Guitar Junior) and became infatuated with the sound of deep Chicago blues. He soon landed a job as a sideman with blues hitmaker Jimmy Reed, with whom he toured and recorded. Brooks cut a handful of singles throughout the 1960s, while appearing on a number of Chicago blues and R&B recording sessions. He played nightly in the bars on the South and West sides of Chicago and in Gary and East Chicago, Indiana. In 1969, Capitol Records released Brooks’ first album, Broke an’ Hungry, under his old stage name, Guitar Junior. In 1978, Brooks recorded four songs for Alligator Records’ Grammy-nominated Living Chicago Blues anthology. This led to a full contract with the label. His Alligator debut, Bayou Lightning, was released in 1979. The album, along with Brooks’ roof-raising live performances, brought him to the attention of Rolling Stone, which ran a six-page feature on the legendary musician. The album won the prestigious Grand Prix du Disque Award from the 1980 Montreux Jazz Festival. Constant touring in the U.S. and abroad kept Brooks in the public eye. His scorching 1980 live performance of “Sweet Home Chicago” on the Blues Deluxe album (resulting in Brooks’ second Grammy nomination) is now considered the quintessential version of the song. His final two releases, 1996’s Roadhouse Rules and 1999’s Lone Star Shootout, showed Brooks at his very best – an electrifying guitarist with full-throated vocals, clever original songs, and a dedication to having fun. Lonnie’s last recording appearance was as a guest on his son Ronnie Baker Brooks‘ latest album, Times Have Change.