Norton Buffalo is regarded as one of the most versatile and talented harmonica players in the music business.
Rhe harmonica has been the major part of his success, however Norton is known as a strong and soulful vocalist (Steve Miller whom he has perfomred with for the 30 years introduced him each night as his "Partner in Harmony") and is as well regarded as a notable songwriter, engineer and producer.
In addition to his work with Steve Miller, Buffalo has also played on over 180 albums by artists as diverse as Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Loggins, The Doobie Brothers, The Marshall Tucker Band, Johnny Cash, Kate Wolf, David Grisman, Kenny Loggins, Juice Newton, Laurie Lewis, Elvin Bishop, Olivia Newton-John and Hawaiian Slack Key Guitarist George Kahumoku Jr.
His father was a harmonica player, and his mother a vocalist in nightclubs in San Francisco in the early 1940's. His great-uncle, Herbert Stothart, won an Academy Award for his contribution to the music of "The Wizard of Oz", and was one the main composers during MGM's golden years of musicals from the 1930s through late 1940s, nominated for 12 Academy Awards, co-authoring many well-known, hits and scoring many of their classic films of that wonderful cinematic era.
Norton grew up in the post-war housing of Richmond, California, a tough blue-collar, industrial town on the San Francisco Bay.
When he was seven, Norton started learning harp from his father, and won his first talent contest in the sixth grade (1963).
In high school he began playing in rock and roll and soul bands as well as in the school symphonic band, marching band, jazz band and pep band on both trombone and harmonica. During this time he was also singing a lot in his church choir. In his later school years he began listening to jazz day and night.
In 1972 he left college and his bank job behind, and devoted his life to playing music and migrated north to Sonoma, California.
Norton also appeared frequently as a special guest on local radio shows that were broadcast from country western clubs in the Bay area.
In mid 1973 Norton left his band "Chaos" and began combining his song writing and musical talents with multi-instrumentalist John McFee. They recorded a demo of four songs at Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart's studio in Novato, CA. Together they created a wonderful songwriting and musically challenging friendship that turned out some of Norton's best writing of that time.
Frustrated by the lack of progress in his career, In early 1975, Norton moved to Los Angeles planning on making it a stop on his way to Nashville. For nine months, he traveled all over Southern California sitting in at different Country Western clubs and getting his face seen playing with some great bands in the area. During this time he made his living playing talent contests, performing some solo performances, and even acting in a play, all the while trying to get a recording deal by shopping tapes around to the many connections he made in the music business. After about 9 months in Southern California, Norton moved back to the Valley of The Moon and shortly after, began putting his band "The Stampede together. During this same time he also started playing in an off-shoot of the Commander Cody band, The Moonlighters.
It was during the 70's that Norton first connected with Steve Miller. Hanging out together in the studio during much of "Fly Like an Eagle", Steve recorded four of Norton's songs, which never made it onto the album. Steve asked Norton to join his band and go out on the road for his 1976 summer Fly Like An Eagle tour. Later that year Steve helped to convince Capitol Records to sign Buffalo to their label.
In 1977 Norton continued to tour with the Steve Miller Band, as well as being a member of Steve's band, his own group, The Stampede, opened up all of Miller's shows at Coliseums across the US.
In 1978 Norton was invited to Hollywood, playing music and acting in Bette Midler's screen debut "The Rose".
In August 1978 Capitol released Buffalo's second Capitol LP, Desert Horizon.
In the early 80's Norton hooked up with Grateful Dead drummer, Mickey Hart, Merl Saunders, Bobby Vega, Vicki Randle, and several other Bay Area musicaicians and started a band called High Noon who performanced throughout California for a year and a half. In 1981, High Noon began some great recordings, but before they were finished, the band fell apart due to the complications of so many conflicting schedules.
In 1987 Norton teamed up with legendary Bay Area slide guitar player Roy Rogers. In 1991 they released the all-acoustic R&B and Travellin’ Tracks.
In 2003, Norton & Roy Released Roots Of Our Natures.
In 2000, Norton released the blues based CD King Of The Highway.
In 2007 Norton teamed up with his longtime friend, George Kahumoku Jr. to record a tall pile of Hawaiian and original material.
Norton passed away October 30th, 2009 in Paradise, California from a cancerous tumor in his lung. Norton's wife, Lisa Flores indicated that they would continue to make Norton's music available and carry on his work and that we carry him in our hearts and minds in the cheerful and loving way he lived.
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