Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ronnie Baker Brooks

I’m just a couple of weeks away from the day, five years ago, when Willie Panker suggested I think about extending my promotional skills on behalf of live Blues.  So I continue down this memory lane.  Obviously I’ve had five years of exceptional music at great venues and festivals, and I’ve also been blessed with numerous memories that can instantaneously become smiles.  Please indulge me this happy trip to the past.

I first met Ronnie backstage at the Greeley Blues Jam in 2009, shortly before their set.  I watched their set from the relative comfort of the photographers pit, because at 5’ 2” (on a good day), it’s about the only place I can see the performers without getting trampled by tall people who don’t see me in their peripheral vision (crowds can be a painful nightmare for us shorties). 

I’d not seen Ronnie live before, and along with C.J. Tucker and Carlton Armstrong (more about him in a minute), he had the great Jellybean Johnson with him!  Their set was like a new happy drug to me, the effects of which can only be felt at a live performance.  Fortunately since then, I’ve wracked up a number of those happy times, and have become friends with these fine gentlemen.  With Carlton, that almost didn’t happen.

For those readers who’ve seen a live RBBB performance, you know that Carlton wears some rather menacing expressions while playing the bass, and I was terrified of him.  I gave him a wide berth backstage, and when Cricket introduced us, if I remember correctly, I shook his hand, then started looking for an escape route, in case he didn’t care for my grip. 

That all changed the second time I saw them, which had me at an advantage, as I booked their gig at the Outlook, so I figured Carlton would be less inclined to maim me for saying something stupid.  It was at breakfast the following morning that everything changed.  See, I woke up to three emails and one text, all out of the ordinary, but things I needed to address.  But first coffee with the guys and Janie Soong. 

They were all sitting at a long table in the back, and I came in and Ronnie asked me to join them. I sat down, and said, “Ronnie, you made people lose their shit last night!”  Ronnie shifted in his seat with an expression of aw-shucks humility.  Then I said, “No seriously, Ronnie, I woke up to three emails and a text about two missing cameras, one cell phone, one jacket, and a missing set of keys.  You made people lose their shit.”  I believe Carlton was the first to almost fall out of his chair laughing.  We’ve been tight since. 

A little later (oh GOD I love this), Ronnie turns to everyone and says about me, “You know she used to hang with Muddy.”  Pause.  ME:  “Um, Ronnie, I met him once for about fifteen minutes, so I don’t really think that qualifies as “used to hang with.”  RONNIE:  “Well, it’s more than they can say.” 

In December of 2010, Al Chesis managed to pull off quite a coup for my annual Blue Star Connection Birthday Benefit.  The first Saturday of every December, I bring in a shredder, backed by the Delta Sonics (Bob Margolin was the year before), and we have a party and raise money.  A few months prior, Al and I were talking about who to bring in.  I said I wanted Ronnie, and would contact his agent, Casey.  So, I sent Casey an email, but after a few days with no response, Al said, “Why don’t I just call Ronnie directly and see if he’s even interested.”  I was in the middle of something, and just said, “Fine. Let me know.”  Now, and here’s my favorite part, what Al and I didn’t know, is that Ronnie doesn’t do fly-ins without his band, and Casey had been out of pocket, so fortunately hadn’t had time to respond, because he would have said “no” without asking Ronnie in light of the policy.  Al told me that Ronnie said, “I don’t normally do this, but for Honey I will.”  That will humble me through eternity.

He flew in on that Saturday, and out first thing Sunday morning after a night of music none of us will ever forget.  It was a great jam, and even Eddie Turner dropped by, and he and Ronnie squared off for a good twenty minutes, keeping the capacity crowd on their feet.  It was a great night, and Ronnie will always be one of my favorite birthday presents ever.  I asked if I could keep him, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the deal. 

In June of 2011, Ronnie was the Saturday headliner at Winter Park, Colorado’s, Blues From the Top, and I hadn’t see him before the set, so once again, I find myself in the photographers’ pit enjoying my happy drug.  About the third song in, Ronnie glances down and sees me, and gives me BIG shout out from the stage (and now I’m all giggly again at the memory).  Less than a minute later, I feel a tap on my shoulder, turn around, and it’s Cricket saying, “I’m so glad Ronnie pointed you out.  We’ve been looking for you all day.”  That’s when I looked over her shoulder and saw Janie Soong.  What a great set and great memory!

After the set, Ronnie and I sat backstage having a bite, just the two of us for about an hour.  We talked a lot about my “son,” Austin Young, other friends, music, etc.  It was just nice.  Then my friend Bill and I went over to the condo rented by Kent and Debbie Obermann, along with their two kids and their respective spouses, Carlton, C.J., Cricket, Janie, and Gretchen Troop.  We had great Mexican food, homemade beer, watched the Honey Badger on youtube (they’d not seen it yet), laughed, and had a wonderful, relaxing evening with friends.  We even missed the Smokin’ Moe’s jam that night, as we were all having a perfectly great time where we were.  And that was the night I found out that Carlton Armstrong is one of the world’s greatest examples of humanity.  I love, respect, and adore him, even if he often looks like he’s about to smack me. 

I’ll be seeing my good friends at the end of May.  I’ve no doubt they’ll give me another blog to write.  Let’s face it, Ronnie’s smile is blog-worthy all on it’s own.  I can’t wait to see it again.  

~Honey Bee Sepeda~  

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