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Friday Night Headliner

Ronnie Baker Brooks returns
for encore performance

He was a crowd favorite
at the 2009 Madison Blues Bash

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(August 2011) – What would barbecue be without a little blues music mixed in? Friday night’s Madison Ribberfest “Blues Bash” headliner Ronnie Baker Brooks is expected to spice up the ingredients while cranking out a flavor that is sure to appeal to all.
Brooks was reared in Chicago, a town steeped in American musical tradition. His father was the famed blues player Lonnie Brooks. Brooks grew up listening first-hand to gutsy guitar players and soulful singers who weren’t afraid to express their emotions through song.

Ronnie Baker Brooks

Photo provided

Ronnie Baker Brooks
played here in 2009
and returns by popular
demand to headline
this year’s Madison
Ribberfest Blues Bash
on Friday night.

Musically, Brooks said he was influenced by “my father, of course, but I have many others like Albert Collins, BB King, Buddy Guy, Albert King, Freddie King, Jimi Hendrix, SRB and Muddy Waters, just to name a few,” Brooks said during an early August telephone interview.
But Brooks, a futuristic thinker, doesn’t merely imitate these Blues legends. He puts a new twist on his music, modernizing it for today’s crowd by instilling a contemporary sound into it.
David Butler, music co-chair of Ribberfest’s Blues Bash. along with Rocky Harrell, said Brooks was invited back to Ribberfest in honor of the event’s 10-year anniversary. Brooks performed at the 2009 Ribberfest, and the music committee has received more requests to bring him back more than any other performer.
“He just tore it up,” said Butler. “Everybody just totally loved him.”
Brooks will take the stage at 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19, at Madison Bicentennial Park. Gates will open at 5 p.m. The evening’s stage performances kick off at 6 p.m. with Louisville-based V-Groove. At 8 p.m., Tinsley Ellis will entertain the crowd. Known for attacking his music with heart and soul, Ellis delivers a performance in the tradition of Deep South fellow musicians Duane Allman, Freddie King, Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes. Then Brooks will take the stage and close out the evening.
“We give our all every night at every show,” said Brooks. “We love to see people having a good time, so we work hard at making that happen. If the audience gives any of that back to us, we work harder!”
Brooks’ popularity quickly grew early on by playing in Chicago area clubs until he became a mainstay. His first album, Golddigger, was released in 1998. His second album titled, “Take Me Witcha,” was released in 2001. Brooks’ much anticipated third album was released in 2006. The Torch includes 17 original songs and was nominated for the Best Blues Album of the Year from the Chicago Music Awards.
On The Torch, Brooks has taken blues-rock and infused it with deep soul, modern hip-hop vocals and funk rhythms to make it his very own eclectic mix of Blues. He has been quoted as saying, “I wanted to do something that would bring young people to the Blues, and then give them the real hardcore thing at the same time.”
The title song “The Torch of the Blues,” features Brooks with his father and Blues legends Eddy Clearwater, Jimmy Johnson and the late Willie Kent, who worked on the session before his death in March 2006.
Of his own distinct style, Brooks said, “Everyone has their own fingerprint, so I try to do the best I can at being myself and come from my heart with my music. Then hopefully, I will have my own identity.”
He continued, “I love the truth in Blues music. I loved it since (I was) a very small child. I mean people like Muddy, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightin’ Hopkins and Son House. It’s something about the truth in their voices and music that just grabs me.”
Brooks joined his father’s band right out of high school, and spent more than a decade backing and opening his father’s show every night. He left his father’s band to strike out on his own after releasing his debut album, “Golddigger.” This album earned him a W.C. Handy Award nomination for Best New Blues Artist.
Lonnie Brooks has been in the Blues industry for nearly six decades. His release of “Two Headed Man” quickly made him famous for his “Voodoo Blues” trademark sound. He is best known for his showmanship at his live shows, a trait he passed onto his son.
Brooks certainly has no problem drawing in an audience. This year the Ronnie Baker Brooks Blues Band has performed nationally and internationally at such events as The Grammy’s Blues Fest Kickoff, 14th Annual WXRT Blues Breakers Blues Fest, Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest, Festival International Du Blues Tremlant (Canada), London Blues Fest International, and the North Atlantic Blues Fest.
Brooks has toured on his own and as a member of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue. He currently tours with his father and brother, Wayne Baker Brooks, under the guise: The Brooks Family “Blue Dynasty” Tour 2011.
Talent runs in the family as his brother has headlined clubs and festivals worldwide and hosted All-Star Blues Bash concerts featuring some of the biggest names in the business. Wayne Baker Brooks performed for First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1999 at Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation at Chess Studios in Chicago.

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