“Texassippi Soul Man” Danny Brooks needs to play music. It’s not even a choice.
“You have to be born with something in you because music’s a real tough business,” he said. “If you love something enough, it doesn’t matter how tough it is — you have no choice in the matter, you’re just driven.”
And so it was with Danny Brooks.
“In the late ‘60s, I went down to Los Angeles to chase after my dreams. Basically, all I got out of that, apart from hard-life experiences, was a bad drug habit and time in jail.
“The time in jail got the needle out of my arm but I kept drinking and carrying on till Miss Debi got me into rehab in 1987.”
Brooks is now a firm believer in the sheer beauty of playing clean and sober. He often talks to young musicians about the issue.
“I tell ‘em, ‘you think booze and drugs are gonna make you sound better. Sometimes, you’ve got a buzz and you think you sound better, but you really don’t.’
“When you’re playing clean and sober, things are happening in your body — natural things like endorphins and all that. I get better rushes now playing clean and sober than any drug ever did for me.”
Miss Debi who got him into rehab is now his wife and an integral part of the show coming up on Aug. 27. It wasn’t always that way.
“She got called into service a few years back when I had heart surgery. She’d lift the equipment onto stage while I was only allowed to lift 10 pounds after surgery. Then she’d sit on the side of the stage during the shows and sing along to my songs. Some people noticed her and said, ‘Hey, get her up on stage — she sounds pretty good!’
“It was different for her at first, being in the spotlight, But people kept asking for her to get up on stage. Some folks gave her some shakers, which she still uses. Then someone gave her a cajon. At first she would beat it very timidly but now she’s pounding through them pretty good.”
He obviously loves being on stage with Miss Debi, and said she adds a whole new dynamic.
“I’m having the most fun in my life,” he said. “For just two people, we make quite a racket. We show up wanting to play.”
Brooks grew up in the west end of Toronto. But from a very early age, he wanted to go south. His earliest memories are of his mother singing along to Hank Williams and Reverend Jumpin’ Gene Jericho. Later on, his older brother got him into soul artists like Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Bobby Blue Bland and others. Then he discovered Taj Mahal.
“What I loved about Taj Mahal is that he took what the old guys like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf did and bridged the gap to the new rockers who were getting into the blues. I was really into how he interpreted the blues”
At about the same time, his father took him to a Pentecostal church. “Although it was mostly white, it had a mostly black attitude. So I basically had a southern musical upbringing.”
All those southern soul influences will come blasting to the stage on Aug. 27.
“We’re gonna give them a Texassippi, soul-shoutin’, foot-stompin’, hand-clappin’, low-down, hill-country hoedown. And apart from that, they’re going to know that they were at a show!”
The Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society present “Texassippi Soul Man” Danny Brooks and Lil’ Miss Debi live on Saturday, Aug. 27 at the Powerhouse Theatre. Doors open at 6:45 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available through ticketseller.ca, vernonfolkroots.com, the Bean Scene or at the door. Tickets are $20, $15 for members.