Blues Blast Magazine 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award
Not many people get to re-invent themselves over the course of a lifetime. Lee Baker Jr. has done it twice. In doing so, he forged a memorable career that spans six decades filled with hit records, spirited live performances, and the fatherly love that nurtured two sons in establishing their own musical careers.
Born in Dubuisson, Louisiana in 1933, Baker spent long stretches with his grandparents growing up. His grandfather would rise early each morning to play his banjo, much to the delight of his grandson. Baker learned some basic chords that kept him interested in playing until his early twenties, when he bought his first guitar.
After a move to Port Arthur, Texas, Baker worked in an oil field and played guitar in his free time. One day the King of Zydeco music, the legendary Clifton Chenier, was driving past the Baker home as Lee was playing guitar on the porch. Chenier quickly convinced the young guitarist to join his Red Hot Louisiana Band. When Chenier decided to move to California, Baker stayed behind and started his own band. Unable to find a vocalist, Baker was forced to learn to sing.
Calling himself Guitar Junior, Baker caught the ear of Eddie Shuler, head of Goldband Records. Juniors first release for Shuler, the original Family Rules, became a regional hit. Several more records made hit the charts Roll, Roll, Roll and The Crawl, later covered by the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Then Baker met Sam Cooke as the singer toured the south and quickly accepted Cookes invite to go to Chicago.
Once he settled into the big city, Baker started hitting the clubs, looking for opportunities. He was part of the band on a Jimmy Reed session that produced the monster hit, Big Boss Man. In 1969, Capitol Records released an album under the Guitar Junior name, Broke and Hungry, that failed to generate much interest. Since Luther Johnson had already established himself as Guitar Junior in Chicago, Baker reinvented himself one more time to the name known around the world, Lonnie Brooks.
A spirited, dynamic live performer, Brooks offered a unique blend of Chicago blues spiced with hints of zydeco, country, swamp pop plus rock & roll. He had releases on Evidence and Delmark Records in the 70s decade before Alligator Records included four tracks by Brooks on Volume 2 of its Living Chicago Blues series. Brooks continued to record for Alligator, releasing seven critically acclaimed recordings that helped establish Brooks as one of the premier blues musicians in the world.
As a father, Brooks never tried to push any of his nine children into music. He preferred to provide gentle encouragement if any of siblings expressed an interest in playing an instrument. The testament to value of his approach can be witnessed any time one of his sons, Ronnie and Wayne Baker Brooks, hits the stage and dazzles the crowd with his electrifying guitar talent. The three world-class guitarists formed the Brooks Family Reunion band that has thrilled blues festival audiences for over a decade.
In 2010, Lonnie was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Blues Foundation in Memphis.
For his many lasting contributions to the legacy of blues music, Publisher Bob Kieser and the staff of Blues Blast Magazine are proud to present Mr. Lonnie Brooks with the 2014 Blues Blast Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award!
Congratulations to these two individuals on a lifetime of accomplishments in Blues music!