Scene: Brandon Brooks, dedicated Boogie Man Music employee of 12 years, developed a passion for fixing guitars

BY JULIAN DOUMIT, Staff Reporter

In 2012, over 66 percent of high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities- a pretty staggering majority, which implies that the “normal” step to take after graduating high school is to go to college.

One of the high school graduates who went against the norm was Brandon Brooks, the man who said that as long as he was involved in music, he didn’t care where he ended up.

Born in Vancouver, Wash. and raised in the small farming community of Gleed, Brooks didn’t take long for Brooks to develop a serious passion for music.

“My dad played guitar, and growing up I had the opportunity to watch him,” Brooks said. “That definitely sparked my interest.”

At the age of 11, Brooks was given his first guitar by his father, who then began teaching him how to play.

“We had this record player with an adjustable speed, and my dad would purposely slow down old surf records, so I could play along,”
Brooks said.

Brooks eventually took his love of music, specifically country, to the next level: playing guitar in bands with mostly older musicians, including his brother, a drummer four years his senior. Meanwhile, most of the students in his class remained largely uninterested.

“Most all of my friends went to college. There were two that continued playing music, but that’s pretty much it,” Brooks said.

Instead of following the path of his classmates, Brooks did something most would consider to be crazy.

“I took an old VW van across the country. I just really wanted to travel,” Brooks said.

After spending almost two years working his way across the United States from coast to coast, doing odd jobs while saving money and then moving to a new area, Brooks eventually settled in Yakima, near his hometown, where he played music for a number of years.

Not finding much luck playing in local bands, he eventually met a friend who lived in Ellensburg, and the two began playing together. One night, the two found themselves playing a gig at an Ellensburg bar.

“When we started playing, people got up and started dancing,” Brooks said. “This was the first time that I had ever seen anything like that. I thought, ‘Where the hell am I?’”

From that night on, he was convinced that Ellensburg was the right place for him to pursue his music.

While playing in the band Open Country Joy, named after a Mahavishnu Orchestra song, Brooks frequented local music store Boogie Man Music.

“He was just a customer back then, but I could tell that he was real anxious to learn stuff. It was nice to see someone with this kind of ambition,” Kevin Fairfield, Boogie Man owner, said.

That ambition landed Brooks a job working the counter at Boogie Man, a now well-established local instrument retailer in downtown Ellensburg.

“I would tune guitars and vacuum floors at first, and Kevin would teach me how to repair guitars on the side. It took a long time, but I learned damn near everything from Kevin,” Brooks said.

Brooks, who has now been a dedicated employee of Boogie Man for around 12 years, says Fairfield “flatters” him. Still, Fairfield credits much of the store’s success to Brooks.

“I’m real proud of Brandon,” Fairfield said. “He’s been here so long, and he’s practically family. I trust him with everything and he’s an excellent employee.”

He is such an excellent employee, in fact, that Brooks has managed to maintain a sizable clientele in a town that at face value, may not seem like a hotspot for musicians compared to bigger cities like Seattle. Still, customers are more than willing to sing the praises of Brooks’ work.

“He’s very good at judging the experience level of the guys he works with. He caters to what people want. Very laid back, sensitive to the idiosyncrasies of musicians,” Ed Pottinger, friend and patron of Brook’s work, said. “That, and he’s installed electronics in at least six of my guitars.”

Brooks said that he is very happy with the way his life is, even though he said he’d probably be making more money had he pursued a college degree like so many of his former classmates.

“Omitting the possibility of going to college is foolish. Putting all of your eggs in one basket is never a good idea,” Brooks said.

College aside, and considering the fact that Brooks says his passion will always be playing music rather than working on amps and instruments, there is really no place he’d rather be.

“I love my job. I love being surrounded by guitars that are half torn apart, and that’s why I always have a smile on my face,” Brooks said.

With a wife and an 8-year-old son a huge part of his life, Brooks now enjoys the slower pace of life in Ellensburg. He constantly finds satisfaction in the opportunity to stay in the music world at work, while thousands of young adults attend college classes at Central Washington University less than a mile away.

“Here, I can be me,” Brooks said. “You don’t need a college degree for that.”