Dec 18, 1933 – April 1, 2017
Lee Baker Jr., better known as “Lonnie Brooks”, learned to play blues from his banjo-picking grandfather. His professional music career began when he moved to Port Arthur, Texas in the early 1950s. One day, while Brooks was strumming his guitar on his front porch, zydeco pioneer Clifton Chenier offered him a job. Brooks became a regional R&B star with several successful singles, most notably Family Rules and The Crawl, recorded for the Goldband label under the name Guitar Junior.
In 1969, Capitol Records released Brooks’ first album, Broke an’ Hungry, under his old stage name of Guitar Junior. His big break came in 1978 when Alligator Records chose Brooks to appear on the Grammy-nominated Living Chicago Blues anthology. This led to a full contract with the label, and in 1979 his Alligator debut, Bayou Lightning. The album won the prestigious Grand Prix du Disque Award from the 1980 Montreux Jazz Festival.
On the Grammy-nominated Blues Deluxe anthology, cut at ChicagoFest in 1980, Brooks more than held his own in the company of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, breathing life and fire into what has become the quintessential version of “Sweet Home Chicago”.
By 1987, Brooks’s teenage son, Ronnie Baker Brooks, was touring with the band. He made his recording debut on “Live From Chicago—Bayou Lightning Strikes”, an album Guitar World described as being played with “a vengeance that’ll blow the lid off your speaker cabinets.” 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, unforgettable jam at Buddy Guy’s Legends.