Photo: Dianne Bruce Dunklau
Ronnie Baker Brooks at SPACE in Evanston, IL
Friday, November 26, 2021
Doors: 7pm | Show: 8pm
Tickets: $20– $50
Find ticket information HERE.
Ronnie Baker Brooks, 49, likes to treat each album he makes as a platform for him to grow, but the reality is that he’s been climbing the blues world’s latter all his life. The son of late blues legend Lonnie Brooks, he was born Rodney Dion Baker in Chicago, and started playing guitar around age six. He literally grew up in a house of blues.
In 1985, he graduated from Hales Franciscan High School. Ronnie learned to play bass guitar and at age 19, he joined his famous father’s band; by then Lonnie Brooks had influenced some of the most well-known bluesman across history: Jimmy Reed, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Johnny Winter, and Junior Wells and countless others. Ronnie played guitar on his father’s live album, Live from Chicago: Bayou Lightning Strikes, released by Alligator Records in 1988. He was then part of Alligator Records’ 20th Anniversary Tour, performing alongside Koko Taylor, Elvin Bishop, and Lil’ Ed Williams.
For 12 years the two toured together, putting Ronnie out front with Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Koko Taylor. In 1998, when he was 32, his father told him to go solo.
Baker already had a band by then, one he’d been touring with on the side since 1992. But by 1998 he’d started a label; that year he made his first album, Golddigger, 16 songs tracked out in two weeks. He was nominated for a Blues Music Award in 2000 for Best New Artist.
“My dad always said to keep writing, even if you don’t think the song sounds great or you can’t finish it,” says Baker. “Write. Continue to write. The more you write, the better you get.” Take Me Witcha came three years later; his second album on Watchdog Records.
Brooks' next album was The Torch (2006). The Boston Herald described it as “ferocious and unrelenting, The Torch may be the year’s best blues album.” The album included contributions from Lonnie Brooks, Eddy Clearwater, Jimmy Johnson, Willie Kent, and Al Kapone and was produced by Jellybean Johnson. From 2007 to 2010, Brooks toured with band members Carlton Armstrong, C.J. Anthony Tucker, and Steve Nixon, to support The Torch. On occasions when his younger brother, Wayne Baker Brooks, joined him and his father on stage, they were billed as the Brooks Family Band.
Brooks played at the Notodden Blues Festival in 2007 and at Memphis in May and the Musikfest in 2009. In August 2010, he co-wrote three tracks with Chris Beard for the latter’s Who I Am and What I Do, released by Electro Glide Records. In 2012, the blues journalist David Brais declared Brooks “blues royalty”, stating that “his particular style of Chicago blues has been performed on stages around the world. It honors the true torch bearers of this unique sound which includes Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Luther Allison and his father.”
Times Have Changed is Brooks’ most recent album. Produced by Steve Jordan, the critically acclaimed disc was released in January 2017 on the Provogue imprint.
Brooks lives in Dolton, Illinois.