Lost another friend. Lonnie Brooks. Oh lordy. We had some good times. The best was being on a Rhythm and Blues cruize together. At lunch he told me he was 70. No way. Didn’t believe him. Insisted on seeing his drivers license. He showed me. We had so many laughs that week. The night before we were both in the hall when Millie Jackson and her band sang an operatic song where the only lyrics were F*** You. The next morning I saw Lonnie in the breakfast line and snuck up behind him and sang F*** You with zeal. He turned around, looking shocked, saw it was me and came back with an equally operatic F bomb. That went on for a few. We just about fell down laughing.
We mourned together for Koko Taylor and Phil Guy and other blues greats.
One of the big thrills for me getting an award from the Grammy people years ago was that I was in the company of Ramsey Lewis, Steve Albini, and my friend Lonnie Brooks. Lonnie and Ronnie did an acoustic set after getting his award. I had to follow that! I just adore his sons Ronnie and Wayne. My heart goes out to them.
On one of the blues cruises I attended a workshop on second generation blues artists. Ronnie was there to talk about Lonnie. Shemekia Copeland shared her memories of her father Johnny. And Bernard Allison told stories about his dad, Luther. I came away from there with a whole new appreciation of how deep the love and respect ran for those three young artists. Having adored my own father, it resonated with me about how lucky they felt to have had those men in their lives. My heart breaks for Ronnie.
I remember the night at Navy Pier when Lonnie and his band played a rousing rendition of Sweet Home Chicago. It’s the version we play on XRT. It’s on the Blues Deluxe album. It really captures the energy that came from that stage. We saw Lonnie, Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, Etta James and many other tear it up with a stunning view of the city behind them. Lonnie told me that they had just come home from a tour and they were so pumped up by the ChicagoFest crowd that the band started the song twice as fast as they usually performed it. And Lonnie had to keep up. But he did because he was a pro and because he felt that energy too. He felt it and gave it right back to us. He gave us, and his family, a whole lot of love and music. We’ll never forget that. God bless you, Lonnie. Go in peace.