25 Acts! Dennis Brooks Celebration of Life by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Posted on 11/30/2009 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

(Memphis, Tennessee) Today we take a trip down to Neil's on Madison Avenue for the all day, all night celebration being held to honor the late Dennis Brooks, one of the BLUES' best friends. As the collection of photos will attest, Dennis had a lot of musical friends, and we gathered to raise some money for him to have a proper headstone for his grave.

The first time I met Dennis he was bar tending at Neil Heinz' first midtown bar, called MacNeil's, which was located in a former International House of Pancakes location on Union Avenue, not too far from Neil's current location. It was a fun place, replete with the orange roof and some very kind folks inside. I was impressed with this bartender's extensive knowledge of local music and became instant friends, talking for hours with Dennis about music, particularly the blues.

Dennis helped us get bookings and took little or no commission and he allowed many musicians to stay at his home over the years. He was a kind and selfless man and it was a great honor to be his friend.

Last month Dennis passed away suddenly and his friends, many blues fans and musicians, held this big event to honor him. Nobody got paid, no admission was charged to get in...we were all here for Dennis, and it was the largest collection of musicians and fans I have seen in quite some time.

Here's some of the lineup:

2 p.m. - Tomi Lunsford, Sandy Carroll

3 p.m. - Bobby Lawson Band, David Daniels, Stan Street, Don Cook

4 p.m. - Wampus Cats, Delta Joe Sanders, Elmo Lee Thomas

5 p.m. - The Hitmen, Sterling Billingsly, John-Alex Mason

6 p.m. - Blind Mississippi Morris, Billy Lavender, Microwave Dave, Phil Durham

7 p.m. - Steve Selvidge, Richard Johnston, Billy Gibson

8 p.m. - Don McMinn, Davis Coen

9 p.m. - Reba Russell Band, Valerie June

9:50 p.m. - Eric Hughes Band

10:15 p.m. - Jam Session

I think I must have jammed with about half of the bands that were assembled. There were over 20 acts and the music still going strong well after midnight when I departed to write this article. I really enjoyed doing a couple of numbers with my band, the Wampus Cats, and then we brought on my old partner in the Memphis Sheiks, Delta Joe Sanders. Joe is a great songwriter and one of my best friends. Then my old band mate Elmo Lee Thomas came up and we did a couple of great tunes off of his new CD which was reviewed here a few weeks ago(see link below).

I had a great time jamming with the Hitmen, Buddy Davis and Don Cook, Stan Street on harp and then again with Sterling Billingsley and Rome, Doug and Papa Don McMinn of Nightrain. Thanks very much to my very talented old musician friends for good times all the livelong day.

Here's a bunch of pictures from the all day, all night show.

Elmo Lee Thomas sings "I Feel Pretty Good!"

Richard Johnston, the Hill Country BLUES best one man band

keyboardist Russ Wheeler

the lovely Miranda Louise and the author

Singing songwriter/pianist Sandy Carrol and the author started the event at about 2 pm
Sandy is married to my friend Jim Gaines, super producer

Russ Wheeler provided the B-3 and Yamaha Motif for the event
and played with Blind Mississippi Morris and the Pocket Rockets

Darren J. Fallas

Steve Bryson and guitarist/singer Darren J. Fallas

Tony Adams on drums

Microwave Dave drove in from Alabama

Microwave Dave

Danny Cochran on bass

Singer and drummer Phillip Dale Durham and guitar slinger Brad Webb
Phil was a member of Moloch back in the 70's

my friend, guitarist and singer David Daniels
David is about to put out a new CD

this was my view for most of the day

Josh Roberts and Wayne Russell examine bass strings or perhaps are just
admiring the carpet before going on stage

Wampus Cats' drummer Doug McMinn, my buddy
Doug and I also played with Papa Don McMinn, his dad, and Reba Russell

Wayne Russell tunes as Reba Russell looks on
She's so sweet and so pretty...
and my favorite singer

Papa Don McMinn and Reba Russell

bassist Leo "the freight train of pain" Goff and the author

My old band mate and friend, Blind Mississippi Morris

David Hudson, Josh Roberts and the author

Miranda Louise and Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Brad Webb and Steve Bryson head up I55 productions
Steve flew in from California for the gig

Catherine Adams and I55 owner Steve Bryson

I55 recording artist Billy Lavender (yes, that's his real name, cool ain't it?)
Billy's got a new CD out on I55(see link below)

Tony and Catherine Adams

My partner Delta Joe Sanders
We recorded a bunch of CDs as the Memphis Sheiks
we still haven't gotten paid for the first few we did although they still sell them...hmmn

We get paid for this one though
It pays to do business with real friends instead of lying, rotten crooks

Bobby Lawson

Bobby Lawson

Drummer W. C. Garrison

harmonica player and friend, Lee "Scrap" Raines
from the Memphis Blues Society band

Dave Bennett, President of the Memphis Blues Society, plays bass

my old friend Vince Johnson

I got to play on Vince's new record, he's a great harp player

It was a tremendous day of BLUES and I would like to thank the show's organizers. This from the Memphis Flyer:

"The concert — dubbed the Dennis Brooks Life Celebration — was organized by Heidi Knochenhauer, a grant writer for the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival who calls Brooks her "blues wingman" for area festivals and blues events in recent years; former colleague Chuck Porter, who hosts the "Blues Today" program on WEVL-FM Friday mornings; and stalwart local blues musician Brad Webb."

Here's a link to the article:

Here's a link to Sandy Carroll and Grammy award winning producer Jim Gaines cool site, Bessie Blues:

Here's Doug McMinn's site full of stuff about Papa Don, Mojo Buford, the Reba Russell band and the Wampus Cats:

Here's a link to Elmo Lee Thomas' site:

Here's a link to my friend Nancy Apple's Ringo Records where you can hear and buy her new CD "Shine" and also Delta Joe Sanders' new CD, "Another Saturday Night"(I play on both of them):

Here's a link to Miranda Louise's site:

Here's a link to my friend, hill country troubadour, Richard Johnston's site:

Here's a link to Microwave Dave & the Nukes site:

Here's a link to the Reba Russell band site:

©2009, Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms


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American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

Mon: Memphis Correspondent - Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms
Nighthawk is our resident globetrotter and man behind the scenes, as he tours with the Reba Russell Band.

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Blake is the American Blues News review and interview guru. You may catch him out and about in NY playing the blues.

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Nelson offers a Friday column of blues photography and pictorial support for the interviews covered by the team.

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