Reunion party has grown into community event

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 8, 2005

For the Brookhaven High School Class of 1968, summer is not onlya chance to see some familiar faces but also to relive the past andhear some good music.

About seven years ago, the class started meeting every year as away to keep in touch with each other and remember some classmembers, Jimmy and Missy Barnett, who were killed in a planecrash.

“It (the plane crash) made me stop and get a new perspective onthings,” said classmate Don Jacobs. “It made me appreciate thepeople I grew up with.”

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“When our class turned 50, we decided not to wait 10 yearsbetween reunions. So we get together every year,” said class memberHarriet Proffitt.

It was at their 30th reunion that Jacobs met with his old highschool band, The Brutes, to play. The band, which enjoyed its shareof performances when the class was youngsters, hadn’t playedtogether in three decades. When they were younger, they played atparties, dances and other events. Members said bands were popularduring the 1960s.

“We learned a lot of songs off the radio,” said Virgil Brawley,Brute member. “Nobody knew anything about starting a band backthen. We were what they would now call ‘garage bands.'”

Because of the party’s success, the class had another party thefollowing two years.

“We had such a good time we decided we should do it on a moreregular basis,” Jacobs said.

It was while planning for year three that Jacobs learned anotherold friend and now well-known producer, Ed Safley, was going to bein town. So, Jacobs invited him to play during the event.

After Safley agreed to join the band, Jacobs thought of anotherway to open up the party to more BHS alumni.

“It occurred to me that rather than just invite him to play withus, we should reunite his old band, too, and have a Battle of theBands like we’d done back in high school,” said Jacobs.

The Brutes and Safley’s band, The Rooks, considered themselvesrivals, but the relationship between them was more fun thananything else, Jacobs and Safley said.

“There was a lot more camaraderie than competition,” saidSafley. “There were a lot of bands in Brookhaven at the timebecause there were so many places we could play. It was a greatopportunity for musicians to hone their craft.”

As the word spread that both bands were getting together for a’battle,’ many local musicians began to show interest and showed upto hear the music, said Jacobs.

“With all these local musicians hanging out, it only seemednatural to invite them to join us. This was in the summer of 2001,”Jacobs said. “Someone referred to it as ‘Brookstock,’ a play onBrookhaven and Woodstock, and the name stuck.”

Since then, Brookstock has become an annual event for allmusicians to showcase their talents. It has also become Jacobs’ ownpersonal project. He has worked diligently with no budget everyyear to coordinate with his old band members and classmates to keepthe memories and music going.

“It’s a lot of fun, especially for those who enjoy the music,”said Jacobs.

This year, for the fifth time, Brookstock will be Saturday, June4, at 6:30 p.m. at Lonnie Ray’s Day Camp in Bogue Chitto. There isno cover charge, but everyone is encouraged to bring his own foodand drink.

Safley, also known as Ed Tree, will be joining the class for thesecond time in five years.

“What this (Brookstock) means to me is the relationships with myfriends and all these bands and seeing some people you haven’t seensince high school,” Safley said.

Safley, who started playing in The Rooks in the eighth grade,wound up in California pursuing a musical career. He got started asa studio musician but eventually became the lead guitarist forSpencer Davis. He later began playing guitar with RitaCoolidge.

He said Brookstock brings together his band members, who allwent different directions after graduation.

“We got together at our 20th year reunion and played,” Safleysaid. “So we’re good for about one gig every 20 years.”

For Brawley, a professional Blues artist with a slew of musicaccomplishments to his credit, Brookstock is all about the peopleand the music.

“I like it because I get to see all of my old classmates andfriends and play that old music again,” he said.

Brawley will be playing for the Brutes set as well as doing hisown solo Blues set. Other local artists will be performing aswell.

Alumni agree that Brookstock has become an anticipated event formany.

“It is the highlight of the summer for us,” said Proffitt, “andit’s so much fun to see old friends and listen to our kind ofmusic.”