Brooks joined pianist Horace Silver's quintet in 1959, replacing his friend Louis Hayes. He remained with the group for five years; later, he played with saxophonist Sonny Stitt, saxophonist Dexter Gordon, and bassist Charles Mingus. He was a founding member of drummer Max Roach's ensemble M'Boom.
In 1976, Brooks returned to Detroit, where he taught and played with local musicians including pianist Geri Allen.
According to the Free Press, Brooks suffered from bipolar disorder, and his mental illness led to problems with the law; he spent several years recently in a northern Michigan prison. After his release in 2004, he moved into a nursing home in Detroit.