Featuring Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Billy Branch and Ronnie Baker Brooks
“Big Head Todd and the Monsters…helms and helps orchestrate a starkly atmospheric collection of blues shuffles and swamp-funk grooves laced with resonating guitars, percussion and keyboards” – THE WASHINGTON POST
“…the high energy, creativity, and obvious fun the artists had making the tracks gives it one of the freshest perspectives on Johnson’s music since Eric Clapton’s iconic Me and Mister Johnson.” – AMERICAN BLUES SCENE
Platinum-selling Colorado-based rockers BIG HEAD TODD AND THE MONSTERS [BHTM] team up with blues royalty BILLY BRANCH AND RONNIE BAKER BROOKS to pay tribute to one of the most influential songwriters of the blues and rock and roll: WILLIE DIXON. If you’re a fan of Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley, or even Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, then you’ve heard the immortal hits of Willie Dixon, a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer dubbed the “poet laureate of the blues.” Dixon’s cannon of over 500 songs, includes such classics as “You Shook Me”, “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover”, “Wang Dang Doodle”, “Spoonful”, “Little Red Rooster,” “I Just Wanna Make Love to You,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” and “Bring It On Home.” In addition to songwriting, Dixon was also an accomplished bass player, singer, and in 1937 won the Illinois State Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship, later sparring with Joe Louis. Eventually, Dixon left boxing to sign with Chess Records and, along with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, became a key architect of the modern Chicago Blues sound.
Known for their platinum-selling SISTER SWEETLY record, BHTM have been blues ambassadors throughout their career. On BEAUTIFIUL WORLD, they recorded “Boom Boom” With John Lee Hooker and later released their first BLUES CLUB tribute, 100 YEARS OF ROBERT JOHNSON, which featured BB King, Hubert Sumlin, Charlie Musselwhite and David “Honeyboy” Edwards. Last year’s WAY DOWN INSIDE: SONGS OF WILLIE DIXON continues BHTM’s journey with the blues.
Joining BIG HEAD TODD & THE MONSTERS for this special Waterfront 30th Anniversary celebration performance are two second-generation blues royalty: BILLY BRANCH and RONNIE BAKER BROOKS.
Three-time Grammy nominee BILLY BRANCH was discovered by WILLIE DIXON while BRANCH was still in college. DIXON encouraged BRANCH to finish his college education, which he did, but instead of going to law school after receiving his political science degree, BRANCH began touring with Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues All-Stars, initially as an understudy for legendary harmonica ace Carey Bell who was planning to leave to form his own band. When Carey took his leave, the young BILLY BRANCH took his place, touring with Willie Dixon for 6 years.
Since those early days, BRANCH has played on over 150 recordings, including 12 under his own name. He’s recorded with Willie Dixon, Johnny Winter, Lou Rawls, Koko Taylor, Eddy Clearwater, Honeyboy Edwards, Syl Johnson, Lurrie Bell, Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks, John Primer, and Taj Mahal. In addition, he has received three Grammy nominations and won multiple W.C. Handy/Blues Music Awards from the Blues Foundation, an Emmy Award, an Addy Award, and two Chicago Music Awards. BRANCH and his band, the Sons of Blues have delivered this cultural legacy around the world, having made over 70 international tours. Branch previously appeared at Waterfront in 1997 with Sons of the Blues and in 2005 with Kenny Neal.
In addition to his recording and performing, BRANCH is a Blues education pioneer who’s taught thousands of children around the world through his acclaimed “Blues in Schools Program.”
RONNIE BAKER BROOKS, 49, was born in Chicago, and started playing guitar at age six. At 19, he joined his father, Chicago blues legend, Lonnie Brooks, who influenced such iconic bluesmen as Jimmy Reed, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Johnny Winter, and Junior Wells. For 12 years the father-son combo toured the world, sharing the stage with the likes of Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Koko Taylor.