Coco Montoya & Ronnie Baker Brooks will pay tribute to the legendary Albert Collins!
Henry “Coco” Montoya wasborn in Santa Monica, California, on October 2, 1951, and raised in a working class family. Growing up, Coco immersed himself in his parents’ record collection. He listened to big band jazz, salsa, doo-wop and rock ‘n’ roll. His first love was drums; he acquired a kit at age 11. He got a guitar two years later. “I’m sure the Beatles had something to do with this,” Montoya recalls. “I wanted to make notes as well as beats.” But guitar was his secondary instrument. Montoya turned his love of drumming into his profession, playing in a number of area rock bands while still in his teens and eventually becoming an in-demand drummer.
In a career that spans almost four decades, he’s gone from drumming for blues icon Albert Collins to holding the lead guitar spot in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers to leading his own band and touring worldwide. Montoya is revered for his ability to move from subtly melodic guitar playing to slash-and-burn pyrotechnics. Equally forceful are his deep, soul-baring vocals. Years of constant touring, playing unforgettable shows at clubs, concert halls and festivals, have earned him his position at the top of the contemporary blues world. And it all started with a chance meeting in the mid-1970s with legendary bluesman Albert Collins, who offered Montoya a spot in his band, where he stayed for the next five years. Coco was initially hired as Collins’ drummer and later—with Albert mentoring him on the guitar—became the band’s rhythm guitarist. A few years after leaving Collins’ band, British blues star John Mayall heard Coco jamming onstage and was so impressed that he hired him for the newly reformed Bluesbreakers.
When Montoya launched his solo career in 1993, he already had an instantly recognizable burning-hot sound and style all his own. His debut album solidified his stature as the blues’ newest rising star. Over the course of his nine previous solo albums, Montoya has consistently delivered piping hot blues, rock and soul. His new album (his fifth for Alligator), Coming In Hot, is another instant classic. Montoya’s fiery, melodic guitar playing and passionate vocals fuel one memorable song after another.Guitar Playersays Montoya plays “stunning, powerhouse blues with a searing tone, emotional soloing, and energetic, unforced vocals.
On the first day recording Times Have Changed – the eleven-track album from Chicago bluesman Ronnie Baker Brooks that brings a sound so big it could topple a Louisiana juke joint – industry-revered album producer and drummer Steve Jordan told Brooks to put his pedal board back in the van. For the first time in his professional life, Brooks, the son of Texas and Chicago blues legend Lonnie “Guitar Jr.” Brooks, would plug a Gibson into TKTK amp and rip it straight from there.
“Back to the basics. The pedals get in the way of your tone – your natural tone. Any distortion I had came straight out of the amp.” Brooks remembers from the Times sessions. “It was almost like going to college, or grad school. It was definitely an education.”
He was born in Chicago, and started playing guitar around age six. At 19, he joined his father, who by then had influenced some of the most well-known bluesman of our history: Jimmy Reed, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Johnny Winter, and Junior Wells. For 12 years the two would tour together, putting Ronnie out front with Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Koko Taylor. In 1998, when he was 32, his father told him to go solo.
Baker already had a band by then, one he’d been touring on the side with since 1992. But by 1998 he’d started a label; that year he made his first album, Golddigger, 16 songs tracked out in two weeks. “My dad always said to keep writing, even if you don’t think the song sounds great or you can’t finish it,” says Baker. “Write. Continue to write. The more you write, the better you get.” Take Me Witcha came three years later; his second album on Watchdog Records. Brooks broke out as his own champion on 2006’s The Torch. The Boston Herald called it “ferocious and unrelenting … the year’s best blues album.”