Norton was incredibly prolific. Worked with Roy Rogers (the slide guy) and also with Steve Miller and a host of others bands and performers. Lots of TV themes and some movie scores as well. My favorite harp part he ever did was on Bonnie Raitt's cover of Runwaway, where he played 4 different harps throughout the song and just killed the lead part. He played on a level far above me. I see him as one of the guys who stuck harmonica squarely in the ears of a generation or two. Not only did he do great work in the live music business but his work on TV and movie scores etc. also planted harp in the minds of millions of viewers of certain TV series and movie scores. ---------- Music and travel destroy prejudice.
I was a massive fan of both Norton and Roy. I first saw them on national TV here in Australia back in the 90's when they came out for the Blues Over Byron festival. I hunted down all their cd's. I was so sad at Norton's early passing in 2009. I was quite shell shocked for a while.
I first heard Norton 1977 when "My Little Runaway" was all over radio here in San Diego. Spoke to someone who was at studio and watched him though control room record the solo with the 4 harps, as well all know. Bought his 1st album, was playing full time then (was underage for clubs) and had already been in 2 Bluegrass Bands and been on LP records back east (Charlie McCoy style) and met Norton at the ROXY in LA 1978. He was GENEROUS & kind, took me onstage to share his rig: Golden Melody Harps, Shure 545 pistol grip mic with switch changed to volume pot/knob, Fender Brown 1962/3 Reverb Unit into a 1950/51 Fender Tweed "TV Panel" Pro-Amp with speaker changed to JBL 130F speaker for clean tone. I immediately went and bought all the same rig, gigged, recorded and toured with that. (Sold my Silver Super Reverb Greg "Fingers" Taylor had shown me on stage at a Jimmy Buffett gig and I had bought that rig with first Green Bullet, had VC mounted same as his). Had a cassette player that would slow down so, even though gigging full-time still spent hours going slowly through all Norton's 2 albums licks. Got many studio gigs in pop & rock and had him to thank in part. Emailed him to thank 25 years later and he remembered our meeting. Met him again just a year or so before his sad passing. By then he was playing those big Vibroverbs and the Huang Harps. Norton was a conscious, kind and spiritual person, if his writings are still up at his website they are worth inspirational reading.
Last Edited by Gabriel.Harmonic on Mar 26, 2021 11:16 PM
Great story, Gabriel. I also first heard Norton on Runaway in 1977 and continued to wear out the grooves on Norton's 2 Warner Brothers albums: Lovin' In The Valley of the Moon & Desert Horizon. I bought every album where Norton appeared as a sideman—even if it only contained one tune (which was often the case). Norton and Charlie McCoy were big influences for me in my late teens. Growing up in Central Illinois did not allow for seeing a lot of mid level touring acts from California, so I was very excited when Norton was announced for the best music club in town. I was 17 and made a fake ID just so that I could go see Mr. Buffalo. The sad part was that Norton had a death in the family and had to cancel the date. Fast forward to 7 years later, I had moved to California and was able to see and meet him in a small club on the coast in Half Moon Bay. He was very gracious and was just as amazing live as he was on record. About 12 years after that we became friends and were able to perform together a few times. I am truly blessed. As Norton told me "Make friends with music & make music with friends". What a great guy he was, not bad at the harmonica either. ---------- Michael http://www.harpsax.com
I guess Iam a good judge of character. I got the impression he was a soulful good guy. All of u confirmed that and more.
Funny C mccoy deal. When I was about 20, I worked in a record store. I bought some C Mccoy albums and thought, "Im gonna learn that". I was so naïve, he made it sound so easy. After a year or 2 I realized, " maybe I should start at level 1, before jumping to level 10.
Really good to hear other old guys talkin about ruining records. picking up the needle, place it back down, again and again.
Sometimes I think; how did this young guy, get so good so fast? Its no discredit to them, they still did all the work.
I think a lot of people take for granted whats available now.
You tube Instructional cds and dvds Slow downers and key changers loopers etc be thankful its sooooo much easier now to learn. BUT U STILL HAVE TO BE THE ONE, WHO MISSES OUT ON A PARTY OR 2 WHILE STUDYING AND PRACTICNG. So all praise to u, young and old who keep plugging away.
It is in the journey, more so than the destination
Ps u don't realize how good a harp player is, until u diligently try to learn their stuff. Been workin on one of Nortons hole 8 9 10 turnaround and trill for 2 weeks. Man he was really good.
Last Edited by snowman on Mar 29, 2021 10:24 AM
Yes, Michael "harpsax" we have not met but have many mutual friends, Damien Masterson is the first person who told me he knew you I believe. By 20 I was plying full-time, band had agent, we toured, etc. but, I had a calling and went under the radar into non-profit work and had an 18 year gap in playing publicly. I was still playing but, more like some of those gospel singers you never hear unless you are in church type thing. I later 1999-2009 had a very cool 7-piece swing dance, jazz, R&B dance band that could hold it's own doing instrumentals for 3 hrs at a club, even though we covered wide ranging material built around female vocalists. I was just in Austin 6.5 year before Covid-19 and did many gigs and studio sessions there. was starting to get rolling here in San Diego again when Covid set in. I did not play on stage with Norton as you were able to enjoy. RIP Norton....we love you!
Snowman: Yes on Charlie McCoy, my story is I just started playing, really just a few weeks or month. A relative who was musician said "Harmonica- have you ever heard of Charlie McCoy I had heard John Mayall) when I said no he literally said "get in the car" and we drove to record store (1974) and bought "Real McCoy". I copied it to Teac reel-to-reel, so I could reverse/replay but, no clue on how to play "The Real McCoy". A few months later I went to see Earl Scruggs (Banjo) and Peter "Madcat" Ruth was on stage setting up his amp (of course did not know who he was) Super Reverb on chair with his little condenser cheap mic head mounted on a ring, little wire running to wrist band with VC I believe is how he had it, then down to belt pack battery, then plugged into amp. He was playing with Dave Brubeck's son Chris in this large Funk Band "Sky King", he tor it up and was playing Charlie McCoy runs over that, plus all his other "tricks & licks". At the after party he was there and we went outside and sat on the seawall (this was Sarasota, FL) and played harps for 2-3 hours. He showed me that it was humanly possible to play those Charlie McCoy runs. I had to accept that it could be done.....that began my religious-level practicing 4 hrs. per day for the next quite a few years. Yes, no YouTube back then! with Ronnie S., Jason R. Howard Levy and all the other cool teachers. We all have our stories/journeys with harp, those are a couple of mine.