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Lonnie Brooks

Lee Baker, Jr., also known as legendary blues singer and guitarist Lonnie Brooks, was born in Dubuisson, Louisiana on December 18, 1933 to Lillian Baker, a housewife, and Baker, Sr., a cotton field laborer. His grandfather, “Joe the Banjo,” was a circus strongman, musician and craftsman, and Brooks’ interest in music was fostered early on from him. Brooks left school after completing the eighth grade, and went to live with his father. In 1950, Brooks left Dubuisson for southern Louisiana, got married and relocated to Port Arthur, Texas.

While in Port Arthur, Brooks was approached by one of his musical heroes, Clifton Chenier, about performing with him. Brooks played everything from Zydeco and rock and roll to jazz and country, performing under the name of “Guitar Junior.” In 1959, Brooks joined up with Sam Cooke on a caravan tour of the south, and then hitched a ride to Chicago where he moved in with Cooke’s mother and brother. By the early 1960s, Brooks dropped the “Guitar Junior” name in favor of his current moniker, performed with Jimmy Reed and incorporated the sounds of Chicago in his performance. During the 1960s and 1970s, Brooks worked in a number of tough Chicago clubs, playing cover songs for underworld gangsters.

Brooks’ big break came in 1978 when he recorded four songs on Alligator Records’ Living Chicago Blues anthology. The following year, Brooks released the album Bayou Lightning, which garnered him a Grand Prix Award, causing him to explode onto the blues scene. His distinctive sound, forged from a combination of Chicago blues, R & B, country and Cajun boogie, came to be known as the “voodoo blues.” Brooks developed a loyal following when he released his Grammy nominated Bayou Lightning Strikes: Live from Chicago, and since then, there have been several successful albums.

Brooks performed at the San Francisco Blues Fest and the Montreux Jazz Festival. With television appearances on Hee-Haw and Late Night with David Letterman, Brooks teamed up with Dan Aykroyd and John Goodman in the Blues Brothers 2000. He also co-authored Blues for Dummies and headlined the 1996 Chicago Blues Fest. Brooks was also often found performing with his two guitar-playing sons, Ronnie and Wayne.

Brooks and his wife, Jeannine, lived in Chicago.

Brooks passed away on April 1, 2017.

Accession Number

A2003.287

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/4/2003

Last Name

Brooks

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Garland Elementary School

First Name

Lonnie

Birth City, State, Country

Dubuisson

HM ID

BRO16

Favorite Season

September, October

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

I love you.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

12/18/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish, Gumbo, Beans (Red), Rice, Sausage (Smoked)

Death Date

4/1/2017

Short Description

Blues musician Lonnie Brooks (1933 - 2017 ) was most known for his album, Bayou Lightning, performed at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, made numerous television appearances, co-starred in the Blues Brothers 2000, and co-wrote Blues for Dummies.

Favorite Color

Black, Blue, Brown

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lonnie Brooks interview: Lonnie Brooks explains his name

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Lonnie Brooks interview, continued

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lonnie Brooks's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lonnie Brooks remembers his maternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lonnie Brooks describes his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lonnie Brooks remembers his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lonnie Brooks discusses Louisiana's Creole culture

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lonnie Brooks continues to discuss race issues in Louisiana during his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lonnie Brooks describes his childhood environs, Dubuisson, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lonnie Brooks recalls his childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lonnie Brooks describes being the eldest of twelve children

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lonnie Brooks recalls his school days

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lonnie Brooks discusses his early interest in musc

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lonnie Brooks gives an overview of his early manual labor jobs

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lonnie Brooks recalls his early music career through Clifton Chenier

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lonnie Brooks describes the beginning of his career as a lyricist

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lonnie Brooks remembers his first recording

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lonnie Brooks reflects on his place in country music

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lonnie Brooks discusses his musical network in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lonnie Brooks describes a memorable performance in Europe

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lonnie Brooks explains his appearance on television's 'Hee Haw'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lonnie Brooks remembers singer Sam Cooke and his brother L.C. Cooke

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lonnie Brooks reflects on his encounters with racism

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lonnie Brooks discusses Chicago's blues venues

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lonnie Brooks shares reflections on the recording industry

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lonnie Brooks describes the Louisiana lore that influenced his music

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lonnie Brooks reflects on the success of his album 'Bayou Lightning'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lonnie Brooks names his favorite musicians

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lonnie Brooks shares final reflections

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lonnie Brooks recalls sharing his wealth with his parents

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lonnie Brooks reflects on his life's course

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lonnie Brooks expresses his hopes for his musical sons