When Sruli Broocker first heard blues guitarist Jimmy D. Lane, on Pandora Radio, roughly a year ago, he was floored. Broocker, a Pittsburgher who is one of the three creative Lubavitch minds behind local video production company Shmideo, had been “searching for a sound like Lane’s for 20 years. I started looking him up.”
What he found with just a small bit of digging was, in fact, a living legend—maybe not lost, but almost forgotten.
“I became a fan of his on social media,” Broocker said. “At the time, I didn’t know he came from royalty. He grew up with Muddy Waters at his house.”
Lane is the son of veteran Chicago blues musician Jimmy Rogers, Muddy Waters’ original guitarist. He toured as the lead guitarist for his father’s band in the 1980s and ’90s, playing with music icons such as Stevie Ray and Jimmy Vaughan, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, James Cotton and Johnny Winter.
In 1996, Lane recorded on the “Blues Blues Blues” album for Atlantic Records, which featured his father accompanied by Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Taj Mahal and Jeff Healey.
Twelve years ago, Lane recorded his last album, “It’s Time,” featuring Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band Double Trouble. But it was around that same time that Lane became a single father, and he shifted his energies to raising his family. With the exception of a few bookings a year, he has been out of the public eye ever since.
He is now ready for his comeback, though, and Broocker believes he is the man to make that happen.
The two men became friends through social media, and Lane has handed over the business end of his career to his new Lubavitch chum from the Steel City.
“He’s a good guy, and I appreciate his interest in my career,” said Lane of Broocker, speaking from his home in Vancouver. “He reached out and wanted to do something. I felt relief that someone took an interest and wanted to take it on. He seemed like a nice cat and a genuinely nice person. I dug that.”
Having been told by those in the business that Lane would need a new album in order to get his career back on track, Broocker launched a crowdfunding campaign. He hired a public relations firm to handle that campaign, paying for the firm’s services out of his own pocket.
The idea was to fund the recording of a new album called “It’s All Good” at Aryln Studios in Austin, Texas — the same studio where Lane’s father recorded some of his most acclaimed work.
Broocker had run successful crowdfunding campaigns for both Shmideo and Bulletproof Stockings, a Chasidic alt rock girl band out of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
“I was confident talking to Jimmy that I could help him, Broocker said. “I thought people would jump on it.”
In his characteristic off-beat humor, Broocker appeals to potential donors on the indiegogo page with: “As a fan who’s become his manager, I’ve tried to knock on a few doors myself, but if people do get through the disbelief that I’m not a lawn gnome, they find out I’m a Hasidic animator and harmonica player — which doesn’t seem to qualify me much to help Jimmy, either.”
The guitarist and his new fan/manager flew to Austin at the end of May to record a promo at Arlyn Studios. While there, Broocker booked him at local music venue, the Saxon Pub.
But despite the push, and Broocker’s attempts to garner the support of some big-name musicians, the campaign, which runs through July 16 on indiegogo, is, in the words of Broocker, “failing terribly.”
As of Monday July 13, the campaign had raised only $600 of its $25,000 goal.
“I thought the blues community would be so excited that Jimmy Rogers’ son was back,” Broocker said. “But the blues community doesn’t use social media.”
The challenge will be to get some bookings without the benefit of a new album, said Broocker. Still, Lane remains hopeful about his comeback.
“In life there’s many avenues you can try,” Lane said, “and if one doesn’t succeed, you try another.”
Broocker is now pulling out all the stops to book Lane at “a significant blues venue.”
“I’m trying to pound the pavement for the guy,” Broocker said. “As soon as anyone hears him play, they’re blown away.”
The fact that Lane’s career is at a standstill, Broocker said, “is tragic.”
“I’m motivated because the guy needs some justice,” he explained. “There is no reason why someone like him shouldn’t be one of the better known blues guitarists in the world.”
Broocker is currently working on trying to book Lane in Chicago but is meeting with resistance.
“I’m a nobody in the entertainment industry,” he noted. “In general, it has gotten extremely hard for people to participate in that industry. It is much more cliquey, much more insular. I’m just trying to make some noise for the dude.”
Broocker is planning to bring Lane out to Pittsburgh in the fall to play with his own band, Chillient, five Jewish guys who play original compositions, jazz and funk covers, and new interpretations of Jewish favorites.
“It’s like a cholent,” Broocker noted. “It’s a blend of a number of different things.”
Lane is looking forward to playing Pittsburgh, he said, but also is excited by the fact that Broocker wants to “go big.”
“But it takes time,” he said.
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.