He's a down-home boy who goes head-to-head with the word nerds in New York City, a mule-loving man who pens novels and songs, a soul food lover who negates any ill effects of Farmers Market meals with his daily 90-minute workout.
If Tommy Lee Cook didn't exist, it'd be a lucky writer who dreamed up so complicated and engaging a character.
But exist he does, to the delight of music lovers and camaraderie seekers at Cook's Buckingham Blues Bar, where he can be found when he's not competing in international crossword tournaments or recording CDs (his latest, "Outside Looking In," debuted last week at No. 35 on the Roots-Blues Top 50 Chart).
Born in Danville, Va., he was adopted at 6 months from the Chatham, Va., orphanage and grew up in Dry Fork, Va. — rural tobacco country surrounded by woods he loved to wander alone or on a pony with a stick, hatchet or gun in hand.
His family moved to Florida in 1967 and Cook spent the next six years in North Fort Myers before joining the Air Force, then heading to the University of Florida in Gainesville. He taught English for a while, then bought and re-did the Buckingham Bar in 2002. It now features a variety of live acts and weekend music festivals (see buckinghambar.com for listings).
Cook recently answered a few questions about his life and times.
Your favorite word? Achieve. I think chasing after dreams is a wonderful thing for us to teach.
Your perfect day? On the water on an airboat in the Everglades, alone or with friends.
Favorite smell? Cured tobacco in a mud-log barn is one that's incredible. Roses are another. Things we know have smelled the same way for thousands of years is a cool thing to consider when sniffing. Just think, a rose smelled the same to Cleopatra as it does to us a couple of thousand years later.
Adult beverage of choice? Johnny Walker Black straight up.
Favorite possession? I have a nickel-silver dobro (resonator guitar) that I traded Brent Wedlar (of Brent's Music Headquarters) for a diamond earring I used to wear 33 years ago. He turned it into a ring for his wife, and she still has it.
Written by Amy Williams
***Past Newspaper Articles***
Rise of Beatles inspired guitarist Tommy Lee Cook
Buckingham Blues Bar owner has been playing for years
Tommy Lee Cook and The Allstars are not your typical Sunday night band.
Their brand of Southern-tinged Chicago blues could be considered raucous and muddy.
Cook, 55, is a Virginia native who has lived in Southwest Florida since his family moved here in the late 1960s. He grew up when the Beatles
invaded and found himself in the grasp of music for the rest of his life. He picked up a guitar and has been playing ever since.
The Allstars are a combination of three different bands, Cook says. The band features Billy Canti on drums, Harry Cassano on
keyboards, slide player Justin "The Kid" Richey, Scott "Big Daddy" Johnson on harp, Terry Gable on trumpet and Rex Bongo on lead guitar.
Cook owns the Buckingham Blues Bar, where he and the Allstars play every Sunday and on Open Jam Wednesdays. The bar is at 5641 Buckingham Road in
east Fort Myers.
Q: How would you describe your musical style?
A: We play Chicago style Albert Collins Blues. Delbert McClinton, we play that type of blues. A lot of the Allman Brothers, too.
Q: What are the rewards of playing live every week?
A: Seeing the crowd get into what you're doing, stamping their feet. It's all about the fun of playing with a crowd and seeing their reaction.
Q: How would you describe the music scene in Southwest Florida?
A: I travel around, see what's out there. Rockin' Jake is a good one.
There're very good local artists, all different kinds.
There's a few good places around town, they know who they are.
Q: CDs, digital or vinyl - why?
A: CDs, I like handling them. I use mp3s to send to promoters but I still like handling the product, reading the liner notes.
Q: What song or songs do you like to perform the most?
A: Anything by Delbert McClinton specifically, "The Blues as Blue Can Get." A lot of my own stuff, too.