It’s rare when one can make the leap from “fan” to “friend and colleague.” For local photographer Bradley Cook, it’s only one of many adventure-filled stories, and his decades-long relationship with Buddy Guy culminates in a cross-country trip following the Blues legend on his latest tour, “The Blues is Alive and Well.”

Cook photographed Guy – and numerous other artists from Jeff Beck to Zeparella and Fortune’s Folly – for more than a decade on the road during the early 2000s. Cook reached a career milestone when one of his photos was chosen for the 2015 album cover for Guy’s “Born to Play Guitar.” He recalls the moment it was official.

“I'm at Kendall Honda, and I'm getting my oil changed,” he said. “And suddenly I get this email from Sony Records. And there's all this chatter and noise and stuff in the waiting room where everybody waits for their cars. 

“I go outside and sit out there and read what they have to say. And so I sat down, I opened it up and it said, ‘Congratulations, Bradley Cook, your picture has been chosen to be the next cover for the Buddy Guy album ‘Born to Play Guitar,’ and the tears just flowed.

“I couldn’t believe it. I could not believe it. Here, I went from this fan. … The first Buddy Guy show I saw was back in 1992 and this feeling was just like when I saw him that very first time,” Cook said.

An occasional contributor to The Chronicle since 2019, Cook has joined the weekly paper as a part-time staff member. The timing couldn’t be better. Brad is back on the road with Buddy. Cook and a childhood best friend begin a three-week, exclusive travelog on The Chronicle’s Facebook and Instagram social media sites. 

The coverage begins this weekend, and readers can follow all of the exploits online. Cook has packed his suitcases, and his schedule. 

The trip begins with Guy’s concerts in Oxnard and Beverly Hills, Calif., then in Austin, Texas, for a live “Austin City Limits” performance, and it concludes at the iconic Ryman Auditorium at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Cook will provide photos, reviews, and set lists from the shows.

In between those gigs, Cook will visit and post exclusive photos, video, and commentary from the road, including Big Sur, Joshua Tree National Park, famous eateries in Texas and Memphis, Vicksburg National Park in Mississippi, The Crossroads, New Orleans, Guy’s childhood home in Louisiana, and more.

An extra noteworthy stop will be in Arizona, to visit his cousin John. It turns out that Cook and his cousin have possession of the bugle their great-great-great-great grandfather played as the official bugler for President Abraham Lincoln. 

For even more excitement, the two buddies from Clearwater Beach, Fla., will be driving a Tesla, requiring strategic charging over the more than 5,000 miles of roadways.

A resident of the southern Willamette Valley for more than 30 years, Cook’s eclectic tastes and indomitable spirit has fueled quite a legacy as he eyes his 61st birthday in June. 

The entrepreneur and small-business owner stays busy in his backyard – built over more than nine years into four distinct sections replicating a Japanese garden. The garden’s many features include fencing that draws on his years as the owner of a fence-and-gate building company. Others might recognize Cook from his weekly Saturday morning show “Breakfast with the Blues” on public radio station KRVM (91.9).

DENISE NASH/CHRONICLE PHOTO - Bradley Cook, who has joined The Chronicle as a part-time photographer, shoots opening night at the Hippie Museum.