Blues Music Now! On the road

Lonnie Brooks, Fabulous Boogie Kings named to Gulf Coast hall of fame

By Amelia Feathers

PORT ARTHUR, Texas — The soulful mixture of blues and rock and roll will be on the menu at the 14th annual Janis Joplin birthday bash Jan. 20 at the Port Arthur Civic Center.

The main ingredients for the show will be the new inductees to the Music Hall of Fame at the Museum of the Gulf Coast. Lonnie "Guitar Junior" Brooks and The Fabulous Boogie Kings are the latest inductees. The Fabulous Boogie Kings including Jerry LaCroix, G.G. Shinn, Little Alfred, Doug Ardoin, Gary Dorsey and possibly Dale Gauthier are scheduled to perform.

Adding a special music spice for the night will be Barbara Lynn, the renowned singer from Beaumont, who was a previous Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame inductee. Barbara Blue from Memphis will perform the Janis Joplin tribute.

Also scheduled to serve some of their own musical styling are The Beat Daddy's, Barry Pickett and the Heartbeat Band with the New Generation Horns, Gary Dorsey, Little Ray and The King Pins featuring Paul Orta.

One of the new inductees, Lonnie Brooks, was born Lee Baker, Jr., in Dubuisson, La. before moving to Port Arthur in the early 1950s. He was discovered in Port Arthur by zydeco pioneer Clifton Chenier.

Brooks first recorded under the name Guitar Junior on the Goldband label. He toured with Sam Cooke in 1959. When Brooks heeded Cooke's suggestion to move to Chicago, he learned there was another Guitar Junior so he began using the name Lonnie Brooks. He then toured and recorded with Jimmy Reed.

In 1969, Capitol Records released "Broke an' Hungry," Brooks' very first album under the name Guitar Junior.

Brooks had a regular gig in Chicago with his own band when he agreed to tour Europe in 1975 and recorded an album for the French Black and Blue label. In 1978, Alligator Records chose four of Brooks songs to be on the "Living Chicago Blues" anthology, which led to a full contract with the label. "Bayou Lightning," Brooks' debut album with Alligator Records, received critical acclaim. The album won the Grand Prix du Disque Award from the 1980 Montreux Jazz Festival.

While in Montreaux, Brooks met Roy Clark and the two musicians became friends. Clark arranged for Brooks to appear on the television show "Hee Haw."

Another of Brooks' live recordings received critical acclaim. The album, titled "Blues Deluxe," was recorded at the Chicago Blues Fest in 1980 along with Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. "Blues Deluxe" was nominated for a Grammy that year.

Brooks' next album, "Turn On The Night," is described as funkier with more horns added. The guitarist traveled to Germany in 1982. The trip garnered Brooks an hour-long German television special.

Brooks' next two albums showed his versatility. "Hot Shot" released in 1983 was praised by the New York Times, which describe the recording as "the most ferocious new blues album of the year." "Wound Up Tight" paired Brooks with a famous fan, Johnny Winter, as a guest musician. As a youngster in Beaumont, Winter sneaked into one of Brooks' recording sessions to witness his idol play.

Because of Winters, Brooks was able to reach a younger audience. Rolling Stone magazine noticed Brooks' newfound popularity and did a six-page feature about the musician.

Brooks' teenage son, Ronnie Baker Brooks, started touring with the band in 1987. He made his recording debut on Brooks' album, "Live From Chicago-Bayou Lightning Strikes."

In the 1990s, Brooks continued to perform at major blues concerts. He performed on a national concert tour with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Junior Wells and Eric Johnson.

He headlined the 13th Annual Chicago Blues Festival in 1996, playing for a crowd of more than 150,000 people.

The other inductees, The Fabulous Boogie Kings, started out as three-piece garage band in Eunice, La. in 1956. They performed mainly in Texas and Louisiana. They toured the United States several times in the 1960s, playing big brass blues music.

The band broke up in 1969, but would come together to do reunion tours. In 1991, The Fabulous Boogie Kings re-emerged as a full time band again, receiving requests for performances from loyal fans.

The Fabulous Boogie Kings' recordings from the 1960s have kept the fans somewhat contented because the band's 10 albums are available on discs. Many of the group's loyal fans continue to follow the group by attending the energetic live shows.

Because The Fabulous Boogie Kings have performed more than 12,000 shows and have lasted more than 45 years despite competing music's fickle interests, they are deservedly inductees in the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame.

The Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame at the Museum of the Gulf Coast has memorabilia of Janis Joplin and other area music stars. Some of the music artists already in the hall of fame are Johnny and Edgar Winter, Gatemouth Brown, Ivory Joe Hunter, Johnny Preston, Jivin' Gene, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, Phil Phillips, Isaac Payton Sweat, Tex Ritter, George Jones, Mark Chestnut, Tracy Bird, Harry James, ZZ Top, Frankie Ford, Dale and Grace, Percy Sledge, B.J. Thomas and Wayne Toups.

Advance tickets are available at the Port Arthur Civic Center, A&S Music in Nederland, Swicegood Music in Beaumont, Penny Record in Bridge City. The event raises funds for the Gulf Coast Museum exhibit at the Museum of the Gulf Coast that houses the multi-face statue of Joplin. Tickets are $13 at the door and $10 in advance.

The Port Arthur Convention and Visitors Bureau has put together a special "Joplin Birthday Bash" package which includes hotel lodging, tickets to the concert and some meals are included. Call (800) 235-7822 for information.

Barbara Blue to perform at Janis Joplin birthday bash

By Amelia Feathers

PORT ARTHUR, Texas — Singer Barbara Blue belts out songs with a hard edge similar to the style of Janis Joplin. The familiarity of Blue's style prompted a group from Port Arthur who was in Memphis to approach the singer. The group asked her to come to Southeast Texas to perform the musical tribute to Janis Joplin at the annual birthday bash.

Barbara Blue will be one of the featured performers Jan. 20 for the 14th annual Janis Joplin birthday bash at 6 p.m. at the Port Arthur Civic Center.

"I'm a very spiritual person and when I'm in Port Arthur I want to feel the vibe Janis felt and stand on the corner where she lived like what people do for Elvis when they come to Memphis," Blue said.

The comparison to Janis Joplin isn't new for Blue. At her regular gig at Silky's on Beale Street in Memphis, she is requested by audiences to sing Joplin's tunes regularly. People want Blue to sing "Mercedes Benz," "A Piece of My Heart" and "Ball and Chain" , — Blue even commented after a performance that she has the "spirit of Janis."

The singer, who doesn't give her age or real name, does admit to "being a child of the 60s" and listening to everything from Peggy Lee to Ray Charles. "There was always music in my house," Blue said of her musical influences growing up in Pittsburgh. My mother told me when I was born I entered this world singing and I haven't shut up since," she said.

Blue remembered as a child sitting in her room singing and strumming her guitar for many hours. She would also entertain for her friends until her late teens when she was brave enough to sing in biker bars.

In the 80s Blue moved to Detroit and was able to get some gigs singing oldies and pop music. Then she met a blues band. "When I met the band I digested blues music," she said. "From then on it was automatic."

Her influences expanded to Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Koko Taylor and, of course, Janis Joplin. "I was between the age of 6 and 11 when Janis came out and I was a musical sponge. Janis and I have many alignments. I was always big in size and I hung out with people a lot older than I was so we have some common ground," Blue said.

Since moving to Memphis and having a regular gig on Beale Street, Blue has some well-known music friends — among them Taj Mahal and Bonnie Raitt.

"I met Bonnie hanging out with Taj at the St. Croix Blues Festival. When I went to the W.C. Handy Awards without a ticket and I was standing with some fans and said 'hi' to Bonnie and she remembered me," Blue said. "I walked through the gate with Bonnie and nobody said nothing. Now, my friends think I am the little VIP queen of Beale Street."

Blue is preparing to record and produce her second compact disc. Her first CD, "Out Of The Blue," was recorded in her hometown. She writes songs, however admits lyrics are her specialty more than the music parts.

She plans on "flying on with the Night Hawks" soon. The Night Hawks is a blues band that she will collaborate on a recording project.

"My goal is not to be a pop queen. I want to be a successful blues soul singer," Blue said. "What I do for a living is something some people do for recreation. I'm blessed not to have to work two or three jobs to make it, I know because I've done that. There are people who still have to work hard and if I can please them with my singing, then I've done my job."

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