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Ronnie Baker Brooks Keeps Blues Alive with Release of 'The Torch'

Chicago has been good to guitarist Lonnie Brooks, a mainstay of the local blues scene for more than 40 years. Now meet Lonnie's son, Ronnie Baker Brooks, who, as VOA's Doug Levine tells us, is also keeping the blues alive and well in the "Windy City."

Some of the world's greatest blues musicians have called Chicago home: Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy. Lonnie Brooks moved to Chicago from Louisiana in 1960, and his oldest son Ronnie was born there seven years later.

Ronnie says being the son of a famous blues musician in Chicago has had its advantages. For one thing, he can't remember a time when he wasn't playing music, listening to it, or composing a new song on his guitar.

"That's the way I grew up," he said. "There was music all around all the time. My dad's friends would come over all the time, playing. It was just always music until I got away from that and realized, 'Wow, you don't have music all around your house like I do.'"

Ronnie Baker Brooks played in his father's band for more than 12 years before striking out on his own. In return, Ronnie invited his father to sing on his new album The Torch, along with Chicago blues greats Jimmy Johnson, Willie Kent and Eddie Clearwater.

"All those guys put their blood, sweat and tears into this," he said. "Part of the concept of The Torch is to keep this going. Because of what they've done."

Brooks goes beyond the blues on his new album, blending blues with soul, funk, rock and even hip-hop with Chicago rapper Al Kapone. A bluesman at heart, Brooks says there's really no limit to the kind of music he plays.

"If you're a music fan, that's all I would like, is a person that appreciates music," he said. "Not necessarily a blues fan or a rock fan, but just anybody that appreciates music to give us a try and listen."

In support of The Torch, Ronnie Baker Brooks and his band are currently on tour in the midwestern U.S. In November, Brooks will appear with one of his longtime musical heroes, B.B. King, at Purdue University in Indiana.