Norman Blake (American musician)

Norman Blake (American musician)
Norman Blake

Norman Blake
Background information
Birth name Norman Blake
Born March 10, 1938
Origin Chattanooga, Tennessee
Genres Bluegrass, folk, country
Occupations Instrumentalist, singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, dobro, banjo, viola, tenor banjo, mandocello
Years active 1954–present
Labels Rounder, Flying Fish, Takoma, Shanachie, Red House

Norman Blake (born March 10, 1938 in Chattanooga, Tennessee) is an instrumentalist, vocalist, and songwriter.[1] In a career spanning more than 50 years Blake has played in a number of folk and Country groups. He is considered one of the leading figures in the Bluegrass revival of the 1970s and is still active today, playing concert dates and making albums with his wife Nancy Blake.[2]



When Norman was one year old, his family moved to Sulphur Springs, Georgia where he was raised.

Although known as one of the most prominent acoustic guitar flatpickers, Norman Blake is a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. Other instruments he plays include the mandolin, 6-string banjo, fiddle, dobro, banjo and viola.[3] He is known for his loose right hand guitar technique, which arose out of his mandolin technique. Also well known is his devotion to 12 fret guitars, including Martin 00s, 000s, D18s, D28s, and, most recently, Gibsons, like his 1929 12 fret Nick Lucas special.

Blake is best known for his work with John Hartford, Tony Rice, and his wife, Nancy Blake. He has played backup for Johnny Cash, June Carter, Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, Kris Kristofferson, Ralph Stanley, and Joan Baez. Blake also played on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album, Will the Circle Be Unbroken. From 1969 to 1971 he was a regular on ABC's The Johnny Cash Show, supplementing Cash's band the Tennessee Three.

Blake is listed in the credits of the Bob Dylan album Nashville Skyline and the Johnny Cash album Orange Blossom Special. He was featured on the Steve Earle comeback album Train A' Comin' and on the multi-platinum O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack, which ignited new interest in bluegrass music and won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 2002. Blake participated in the "Down from the Mountain" tour which resulted. Blake also played on the 2007 album Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, which won five Grammy Awards.

Most of the music that Norman Blake plays could be described as neo-traditionalist Americana folk and roots music (folk, bluegrass, country, blues), and many of the songs he plays are traditional, but he plays this acoustic type of music with a style, speed, and quality that has evolved and progressed in the modern age. Though probably best known for his fluid renditions of classic fiddle tunes transcribed for the guitar (Fiddler's Dram / Whiskey Before Breakfast), Blake has also written songs that have become bluegrass standards, such as "Ginseng Sullivan" from Back Home in Sulphur Springs, "Slow Train through Georgia", and "Church Street Blues".

Blake has produced 32 albums and has recorded on the Rounder, Flying Fish, Country, Takoma, Shanachie, Western Jubilee, Red House, Dualtone, and Plectrafone labels.


  • Back Home in Sulphur Springs (Rounder, 1972)
  • The Fields of November (Flying Fish, 1974)
  • Old and New (Flying Fish, 1975)
  • Norman Blake/Tut Taylor/Sam Bush/Butch Robins/Vassar Clements/David Holland/Jethro Burns (Flying Fish, 1976)
  • Live at McCabe's (Takoma, 1976)
  • Norman Blake and Red Rector (Country, 1976)
  • Whiskey Before Breakfast (Rounder, 1976)
  • Blackberry Blossom (Flying Fish, 1977)
  • Directions (Takoma, 1978)
  • Rising Fawn String Ensemble (Rounder, 1979)
  • Full Moon on the Farm (Rounder, 1981)
  • Original Underground Music from the Mysterious South (Rounder, 1983)
  • Nashville Blues (Rounder, 1984)
  • Lighthouse on the Shore (Rounder, 1985)
  • The Norman & Nancy Blake Compact Disc (Rounder, 1986)
  • Natasha's Waltz (Rounder, 1987)
  • Slow Train through Georgia (Rounder, 1987)
  • Blake & Rice (Rounder, 1987)
  • Blind Dog (Rounder, 1988)
  • Norman Blake and Tony Rice 2 (Rounder, 1990)
  • The Fields of November/Old and New (Flying Fish, 1992)
  • Just Gimme Somethin' I'm Used To (Shanachie, 1992)
  • While Passing Along This Way (Shanachie, 1994)
  • The Hobo's Last Ride (Shanachie, 1996)
  • Chattanooga Sugar Babe (Shanachie, 1998)
  • Be Ready Boys: Appalachia to Abilene (Shanachie, 1999)
  • Far Away, Down on a Georgia Farm (Shanachie, 1999)
  • Flower From the Fields of Alabama (Shanachie, 2001)
  • Old Ties (Rounder, 2002)
  • Meeting on Southern Soil (Red House, 2002)
  • The Morning Glory Ramblers (Dualtone, 2004)
  • Back Home in Sulphur Springs [Norman & Nancy Blake] (Dualtone, 2006)
  • Shacktown Road (Dualtone Music Group, 2007)
  • Look A-Yonder Comin' (State Archives of Florida, 2008) (A bluegrass compilation featuring Norman and Nancy Blake)
  • Rising Fawn Gathering (Plectrafone, 2009)
  • Sleepy Eyed Joe (2009)
  • Green Light On The Southern (Plectrafone, 2010)


Blake appears on the following soundtracks as either musician or arranger:


  • Norman Blake's Guitar Techniques #1 (Homespun, 1990 VHS, 2003 DVD)
  • Mandolin of Norman Blake (Homespun, 1992 VHS, 2005 DVD)
  • My Dear Old Southern Home (Shanachie, 1994 VHS, 2003 DVD)
  • Legends of Flatpicking Guitar (Vestapol, 1995 VHS, 2001 DVD)
  • The Video Collection 1980-1995 (Vestapol, 1996 VHS, 2004 DVD)
  • Great Guitar Lessons - Bluegrass Flatpicking (Homespun, 2000 VHS, 2006 DVD)
  • Norman Blake's Guitar Techniques #2 (Homespun, 2001, 2003 DVD)


  1. ^ (accessed Jan 2, 2008)[dead link]
  2. ^ Stambler, Irwin The Encyclopedia of Folk, Country & Western Music, second edition (St. Martins Press New York, 1983) p 50.
  3. ^ CD notes from The Fields of November, Flying Fish Records FF 70064, 1992

External links

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