Harmonica player born Don Frank Brooks in Dallas, Texas, who became a staple on the Dallas club circuit in the 1960s, accompanying artists such as Lightning Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, and Jerry Jeff Walker.
He relocated to the Big Apple in 1967 and immersed himself in the local folk scene. His harmonica playing attracted the attention of recording acts such as Harry Belafonte, Judy Collins, Rita Coolidge, Don McLean, and Yoko Ono.
In 1973, he joined the Plastic Ono Band for the album, Feeling the Space. Showing off his versatility, he became a member of Waylon Jennings’ backing band and helped to shape their outlaw country sound.
He shared the stage with Judy Collins for a televised broadcast in 1976 that originated from Chicago, Illinois. Along with pianist Richard Bell, he lent a bluesy backbeat to Judy’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire”.
In the 1970s and ‘80s, he could also be heard on the big screen in films such as Buck and the Preacher, Fame, Moonrunners, and Outlaws.
He continued to make himself relevant in the 1980s by appearing on albums by Billy Joel, Melissa Manchester, Diana Ross, and Talking Heads. Other artists and groups with whom he worked include Bee Gees, Cyndi Lauper, Bette Midler, Carly Simon, and Ringo Starr.
In 1985, he took his act to Broadway, where he performed in the pit band of Roger Miller’s musical, Big River. He did same in 1988’s The Gospel at Colonus.
In 1990, he returned to the small screen, appearing on the soundtrack of Ken Burns’ documentary mini-series, The Civil War.
He died of leukemia in Manhattan’s Cabrini Medical Center on 25th October 2000.
His legacy lives on, as he has influenced a new generation of harmonica players such as Micky Raphael. Don was instrumental—pun intended—in Micky’s early development.
He leaves behind a generous discography for the young harpist to cut his teeth on, spanning several genres but always remaining loyal to the blues.
Bee Gees recordings
Edge of the Universe (Barry Gibb/Maurice Gibb/Robin Gibb)
Here he is playing harmonica for Judy Collins on “Bird on a Wire”…