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Norman Blake

Although he is proficient with a variety of stringed instruments, Norman Blake is famous for his acoustic guitar skills -- he was one of the major bluegrass guitarists of the '70s. Blake came into view in the late '60s, when he began performing as a sideman with artists as diverse as June Carter and Bob Dylan. During the '70s, he began a solo career that quickly became one of the most popular and musically adventurous within bluegrass. He continued recording and performing -- occasionally with his wife, Nancy -- well into the '90s. Blake began playing music professionally when he was 16 years old, joining the Dixieland Drifters as a mandolinist in 1954; the group debuted on Tennessee Barn Dance, a radio show based in Knoxville. After two years, he left the band and became a member of the Lonesome Travelers, which was led by banjoist Bob Johnson. By the end of the '50s, the Lonesome Travelers had added a second banjoist, Walter Forbes, and had made two records for RCA. Although he joined Hylo Brown & the Timberliners in 1959, Blake continued to perform with Johnson. The following year, he also became a member of June Carter's touring band.

In 1961, Blake was drafted into the Army, where he was stationed in Panama. While he was in the service, he was a radio operator on the Panama Canal and he formed a band called the Kobbe Mountaineers. The band became a popular attraction and was voted the best band in the Caribbean Command. In 1962, Blake recorded 12 Shades of Bluegrass with the Lonesome Travelers while he was on leave. He was discharged from the Army the following year and moved to Nashville. Once he was in Nashville, Blake joined Johnny Cash's band. That same year, he married Nancy Short and settled in Chattanooga, TN. For the next few years he played with Cash, both on recordings and concerts. In 1969, Bob Dylan hired Blake to play on his country-rock album Nashville Skyline, providing the guitarist a whole new audience. That audience expanded even further when he became Cash's main guitarist on the singer's television show. Cash's program featured a wide array of musical guests, who were often impressed with Blake's talents. Kris Kristofferson asked him to join his touring band and Norman did so, playing both guitar and Dobro; he also played on several of Kristofferson's records. Blake also played on several of Joan Baez's records, including her hit version of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."

Following his folk and country-rock experiments, Blake returned to his bluegrass roots in 1971 when he joined John Hartford's band, Aeroplane, which also featured fiddler Vassar Clements. Aeroplane fell apart quickly, but Blake stayed with Hartford for a year and a half. In 1972, Norman recorded his first solo album, Back Home in Sulphur Springs, which began a long relationship with Rounder Records. This arrangement lasted through Blake's 1990 album Norman Blake and Tony Rice 2, a follow-up to an earlier collaboration with Tony Rice. Most of Blake's output in the '90s was released on the equally venerable Shanachie label, including 1999's Be Ready Boys: Appalachia to Abilene. Far Away, Down on a Georgia Farm arrived that same year, followed by Flower from the Fields of Alabama in 2001. Blake teamed up with Ukrainian fiddler/mandolin player Peter Ostroushko for 2002's Meeting on Southern Soil in February of the following year, with the compilation Old Ties arriving later that spring. Norman and Nancy put out Morning Glory Ramblers in 2004 and Back Home in Sulphur Springs in 2006. Norman released Shacktown Road in early 2007, following it with Sleepy Eyed Joe in 2009. ~ Kurt Wolff, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Even better live than he is recorded-
Norman and Nancy are Fantastic , I love your music , Never stop
My Mom was Born In Chattanooga in 1904 long time ago..! Never been there though.
I took banjo lessons from Norman many years ago in a small studio in downtown Chattanooga. I gave up, , , , he didn't. Oh, well.
saw Norman and doc about 10 yrs ago. bought a single ticket late. it was front row, 5 ft in front of them. i`ll never forget it. trey of phish sat to my left. he left after the 1st set?!
I fell in love with Norman Blake's playing when I saw him on TV in the late 70s. I specifically remember his playing Old Grey Mare.
Get him and Les Paul, Doc Watson, Merle Watson and Chet Akins together what a group to listen to. Yahooo its the best group ever. Sorry but never heard of Norman Blake but he can, flat pick.
Uh this dude can f-ing play, my mom always listened to the joan b dixie and I loved the guitar, never realized it was this guy
Hemlock in the house!
I saw Norman and nancy at The Crazy Horse in Honyoe NY back in the 80's. up close personal show.
After listening to him play the Nashville Skyline Rag on Dylan's Nashville Skyline album, some years ago..I knew I had to learn how to flatpick. He still is one of my favorite, if not favorite all time musicians. His song writing, mandolin and fiddle skills are wonderful as well.
I discovered Norman Blake in 1980 and have been enjoying his music ever since!
robcowan7
this is good for your spirit music.
one of a kind artist
Amazing!!!!
760tomt
played with dylan, cash, kristofferso n , hartford, vassar, and rice. i wonder if he ever sat down with jerry g?
what flow! Soundsa like 12 strings and 20 fingers, a cascade!
Just beautiful.
bmcglasson
I do believe that picture is of the Scottish band Teenage Fanclub, led by a guy named Norman Blake. Different one, of course...
Whose image has Pandora put up in the stead of Norman Blake's? I don't recognize those four fellas.
James M Douglas...Wo u l d ' n t we all!!
I head him on a Townes Van Zandt station here on Pandora. WHat a nice mellow sound. I would love to see him live.
great musician.
Saw Norman Blake with Bela Fleck and Stuart Duncan and a few other Monster musicians in a small college venue in Boston in the late 90's. Unreal!!!!
I've been listening to norman for years and he is one the best pickers that turned me on to flat-picking . this is where I got my start. there are so many excellent flat-pickers out there.
I must say this guy is one of the most talented artists in the genera, I love what he does.
I saw Norman a few years back at the Cuyahoga Valley Natl Park.. small venue and best darn show I ever attended... He is every bit the gentleman, signed my guitar case and was very kind and put on the best one man show you could EVER EVER ask for.. I wish him all the best...

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