Produced by Lonnie Brooks and Bruce Iglauer Arranged by Lonnie Brooks and Dion Payton Recorded and mixed at Red Label Recording, Winnetka, Illinois Engineered and mixed by Fred Breitberg Mastered for CD by Toby Mountain at Northeastern Digital, Southborough, MA CD reissue coordinated by David Forte Cover design by McCamant A & D, Inc. Front cover photo by Richard Marin Back cover photo by Peter Amft A&R assistance by Ken Saydak
Special thanks to Andy Gerking, Mindy Giles, Pam Hall, Jim O'Neal, Ivory Joe Morris, the management of Biddy Mulligan's, Barbara Hanson, and Lee Crooks.
Heard about Lonnie Brooks? The guy's got a snarl and a sob in his voice. There's firepower in his guitar, and his band jams with abandon. Lonnie's songs surge with excitement, plead sweetly, or drip with menace, blending all these elements, Lonnie creates a good-partyin' time whenever he steps onto a bandstand.
Maybe that's because Lonnie is a natural-born crowd pleaser and a veteran craftsman who's made countless bar stages his workshop. His music appeals to everyone who needs a lift, 'cause it mixes backwoods rhythms with honky-tonk tales, rock'n'roll rawness with soul-drenched blues.
Lonnie's been playing professionally for more than twenty-five years as Lee Baker, Jr. from East Texas, as Guitar Junior with a '50s hit (Family Rules, revived here, and still fine for a late night slow grind), and finally as Lonnie Brooks, sharpening his act before the tough customers of Chicago's Avenue Lounge.
When he first edged out of that ghetto tavern towards the limelight, Lonnie was hailed as a Chicago bluesman. Actually, since the late '70s, he's cooked up a strong brew from all his old roots. There's Southwestern swing in his lead and solo lines, city-grown humor and despair in his lyrics, with spices snatched from the Cajun bayous, the Memphis docks and even the Nashville studios. The flavors blend in a hearty alternative to the thin formulas of commercially promoted music. In fact, Lonnie's stew is the kind of original recipe, combining native U.S. ingredients, that we can expect to have sold back to us, watered down, in a bland British-cum-California package.
But why wait for the imitation when the master chef has something bubbling right now? Europe keeps asking for more -- Lonnie's had four tours there, and been featured on a German TV network special. Stateside, he's won fans at Houston's Juneteenth celebration, stirred the fairgoers at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest, and conquered boogie enthusiasts at Chicago Fest (as documented on the Grammy-nominated album Blues Deluxe). You know Lonnie through Alligator's Living Chicago Blues, Volume II anthology, or his Alligator albums Bayou Lightning and Turn On The Night. Then you're probably a believer.
Yet, more than his previous recordings, Hot Shot brings all the gig intensity (if not the acrobatics) of Lonnie Brooks and his regular working band into your living room. They played like live in the studio -- Ken Saydak, whose steamy organ and roadhouse piano have sparked Lonnie's band for four years; rhythm guitarist Dion Payton, formerly with Albert King and the 43rd Street Blues Band; bassist Lafayette Lyle, who learned his funky supportive stuff behind The Emotions; 20-year-old powerhouse drummer Perdis Wilson and guest tenor saxist Abb Locke. They taped five hot new tunes by Lonnie, plus remakes of his long unavailable Family Rules and Mr. Hot Shot, the late J B. Lenoir's One More Shot, the obscure Wrong Number (cut by the Carter Brothers for a Shreveport label), and the rollicking Back Trail by Otis Blackwell, who wrote Elvis Presley's early hits.
Most of all, here's Lonnie Brooks, singing and playing to make every moment count. Unrestrained and passionate -- his Gibson SG seems like an inspired extension of the man, its fast figures roaring out from under his fingers with utter ease. Go on, take advantage of his talent -- Lonnie won't mind at all if his record lands on your box and gets in your ears. No bragging, but that's what this Hot Shot is all about.
-- HOWARD MANDEL Contributor to Down Beat, Guitar World, Musician, and other music publications