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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. We've wandered over to NPR's performance studio 4A, and we have a treat for you: a living legend, blues-man Lonnie Brooks. Brooks grew up in Dubuisson, Louisiana, listening to Cajun music and his grandfather picking the banjo. Later, he moved to Texas, where he teamed up with Clifton Chenier, one of the godfathers of zydeco.

His career took another turn when he met up with singer Sam Cooke - that's a name some of you might know - and together they moved to Chicago, and that's where his career really took off. Over the next few decades, he made a number of acclaimed albums and even made an appearance in the movie "Blues Brothers 2000." He's here with us in Studio 4A now, along with his son Wayne Brooks, who's also an accomplished blues musician in his own right. Thank you for coming.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr.�LONNIE BROOKS (Musician): Thank you.

Mr.�WAYNE BROOKS (Musician): Thank you.

MARTIN: Now, of course, the writers, music writers, always use a lot of different terms to describe your sound, but how do you describe it?

Mr.�LONNIE BROOKS: I don't know, myself. I just play what I feel.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: I've heard this term, swamp-pop. How do you like that?

Mr.�LONNIE BROOKS: Well because, you know, I'm from Louisiana, and they got a lot of swamps out there, if that's the way you say it, with alligators and things like that. And so a lot of people live out there, most of those people, you know, they're listening to zydeco music, you know, and that's where I came from. That's what I heard first, you know, and then it was country after that and then blues.

MARTIN: Well, would you like to play something for us? What would you like to play first?

Mr.�LONNIE BROOKS: "Feel Good Doin' Bad."

MARTIN: All right. I want to feel good - well, that suits where I am right now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr.�LONNIE BROOKS: I hope I can remember it now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr.�LONNIE BROOKS: Wayne, you got to show me how we started this last night.

Mr.�WAYNE BROOKS: You got the count, Daddy.

Mr.�LONNIE BROOKS: I got the count?

Mr.�WAYNE BROOKS: Yup.

Mr.�LONNIE BROOKS: Okay. One, two, one, two, three, four.

(Soundbite of song, "Feel Good Doin' Bad")

Mr.�LONNIE BROOKS: (Singing) Feel good doin' right, but it feel much better doin' wrong. Feel good doin' right, but it feel much better doin' wrong. You know I drink and I gamble, stay out all night long.

I go to the racetrack in the daytime. I go to casinos late at night. When I win a pocketful of money, y'all, make me feel all right. Feel good doin' right, but it feel better doin' wrong. I drink and I gamble, stay out all night long.

I went to church Sunday morning. My preacher say I was doin' what was right, but he didn't know that I felt better when I was out Saturday night. Feel good doin' right, but it feel much better doin' wrong. You know I drink and I gamble, stay out all night long.

(Soundbite of applause)

MARTIN: That was Lonnie Brooks, along with his son Wayne Brooks. And speaking of the blues, I mean, you know all of the other legends, you know B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy. Do you think that our generation, Wayne's generation, do you think we still get it? Do you think we still get the blues?

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: Yeah, everybody got the blues. If you can't your food on time, you got the blues. You don't get your paycheck on time, you got the blues. That's what it's all about.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: You'll get yours. You ain't worried, huh?

MARTIN: Well, you step light now because...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: ...we got something going on here we don't' need to talk about.

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: All right. Well, I mean see, that's the blues. You know?

MARTIN: True.

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: It's when things don't happen right for you. You get angry. You get mad with somebody or something like that. That's blues.

MARTIN: Wayne, what do you think?

Mr. WAYNE BROOKS: I think that a lot of, yeah, of course, everybody get the blues or sad, but I don't think they know exactly what it is. That, I mean in dad's generation, they would call it the blues. You blue, man, you know. As far as my generation, a lot of them don't listen to blues. They listen to rap, R&B, soul, you know, the usual; that's what's on the radio. And I believe that that's one of the main reasons why a lot of young people don't listen to blues or understand blues, is because it's not being played.

MARTIN: You and your brother, Ronnie Baker Brooks, are both in the business. Why do you think you still love this music? So many people your age are, as you said, more into rap or hip hop.

Mr. WAYNE BROOKS: Mainly because I was born around it. You know, listening to Dad's records - you know, Albert King, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters. And I would watch him, you know, write songs. And we would help him write songs. You know, he would have me on boxes and spoons, you know, playing the beat. And Ronnie would play the bass line on the guitar. And he would, stay right there. Don't move. Don't move. Keep it right there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WAYNE BROOKS: And I remember that. I was like 6 years old. And I think that was a major impact.

MARTIN: I wanted to ask about Sam Cooke. I mentioned that you teamed up with Sam Cooke. Do you think you influenced his sound, or do you think he influenced your sound?

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: I don't think. I wish he had...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: ...did something with mine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: Because he was already there. I was trying to get there. But...

MARTIN: Mm. But you had, there's a legendary rendition of "Sweet Home Chicago" that a lot of people still associate with you.

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: Well, I just got lucky, and I wrote a song about it. "I Got Lucky Last Night."

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Wayne, cover your ears.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: Oh, that ain't what, that ain't what I'm talking about.

MARTIN: I'm just saying.

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: Okay.

MARTIN: So do you want to play "Sweet Home Chicago" for us? How do you feel about it?

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: Yes, I can play it. One, two, three, four.

(Soundbite of instrumental music)

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: (Singing) Come on. Baby don't you wanna go? Come on. Baby don't you wanna go back to that same old place, sweet home Chicago.

(Soundbite of instrumental music)

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: Will ya'll help me? (Singing) Come on...

(Soundbite of audience singing response): Baby don't you wanna go?

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: Bring it down, Wayne. I can't hear them out there.

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: (Singing) Come on, baby don't you wanna go?

(Soundbite of audience singing response): Come on, baby don't you wanna go?

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: (Singing) back to that same old place - where?

(Soundbite of audience singing response): Sweet home Chicago.

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: (Singing) Come on, baby don't you wanna go? Come on. Baby do you wanna go? Back to that same...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: (Singing) ...old place, sweet home Chicago.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of cheers)

MARTIN: That was Lonnie Brooks, along with his son Wayne Brooks -with a little help from our audience in Studio 4A - playing "Sweet Home Chicago." Lonnie, are you still writing?

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: Yes.

MARTIN: Still writing songs?

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: Yes.

MARTIN: What's on your mind these days?

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: You don't want to know.

MARTIN: I do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: No, you don't.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Unless you're mad at me. But other than that, I want to know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: No, I'm not mad. I'm not made with you. No, I'm just...

MARTIN: What...

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: No, I mean, well you know, right now I'm in a kind of a period of being an old man and I'm not comfortable with it, you know? So, but I mean, I should be happy that I lived this long. I'm 75 years old and ain't had enough for nothing.

MARTIN: All right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Okay. All right. That's all right.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: You know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: All right.

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: You know, so I know where your mind is going, but it's not that. When I say enough of, I would like to have a big house like B.B. King or Buddy Guy or have that kind of money in my pocket, you know. So that's when I said enough for nothing that I want, you know, so.

MARTIN: I hear you.

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: But you know, I should be thankful to live. I think you know, anybody that pass from like blues players, anybody past 60 or 70, he's doing good.

MARTIN: All right. Well, thank you for spending some time with us. We appreciate it...

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: Well thank you.

MARTIN: ...for you stopping in on us. Do you feel like playing one more song for us?

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: Well, sure.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: What you want to play?

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: "Inflation."

MARTIN: "Inflation." Okay. Lonnie Brooks is a legendary blues singer. He's performing here with us in Studio 4A. He's currently on tour this summer with his band, and he was here with his son and fellow blues man, Wayne Brooks. Gentlemen, we thank you so much for stopping in to see us. To see a video of Lonnie Brooks' performance here at NPR, and listen to more studio sessions by a wide variety of musical artists, please check out our website. Log on to NPR.org, and click on TELL ME MORE. Lonnie Brooks, Wayne Brooks, thank you so much. "Inflation" - here it is.

Mr. LONNIE BROOKS: (Singing) I remember when the days was good, I used to own a Cadillac. But gas got so high, I had to give it back. 'Cause inflation and it getting worse every day. I look for a job so long, I wore out my last pair of shoes. 'Cause inflation, inflation done give me the blues.

(Soundbite of instrumental music)

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