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All-star concert honors life of Norton Buffalo

on January 25, 2010 No comments

Bay Area music stars shine in tribute to Norton Buffalo

Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior Pop Music Correspondent
January 25, 2010

Maria Muldaur and Bonnie Raitt perform as part of the Tribute to the life of Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theatre on January 22, 2010 in Oakland, California.Maria Muldaur, left, performs with Bonnie Raitt during a benefit tribute show for harmonica player Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, Jan. 22, 2010. Buffalo, who was born in Oakland, appeared on more than 180 albums in his career and spent 33 years with the Steve Miller Band. 100% of the concert proceeds will go to the Buffalo family. Buffalo died from cancer on Oct. 30.Bonnie Raitt and Roy Rogers perform as part of the Tribute to the life of Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theatre on January 22, 2010 in Oakland, California.Bonnie Raitt jams with Roy Rogers during a benefit tribute show for harmonica player Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, Jan. 22, 2010. Buffalo, who was born in Oakland, appeared on more than 180 albums in his career and spent 33 years with the Steve Miller Band. 100% of the concert proceeds will go to the Buffalo family. Buffalo died from cancer on Oct. 30.Bonnie Raitt jams with Steve Miller during a benefit tribute show for harmonica player Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, Jan. 22, 2010. Buffalo, who was born in Oakland, appeared on more than 180 albums in his career and spent 33 years with the Steve Miller Band. 100% of the concert proceeds will go to the Buffalo family. Buffalo died from cancer on Oct. 30.Bonnie and Steve MillerBonnie Raitt jams with Steve Miller during a benefit tribute show for harmonica player Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theater in Oakland,Calif.on Friday, Jan.22, 2010Bonnie Raitt and Steve MillerSteve Miller from the Steve Miller Band performs with Bonnie Raitt at the Fox Theater in downtown Oakland, CA during a tribute concert for the late Bay Area harmonic legend Norton Buffalo.  January 23, 2010Bonnie Raitt and Tom Johnston of The Doobie Brothers perform as part of the Tribute to the life of Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theatre on January 22, 2010 in Oakland, California.Bonnie Raitt and Tom Johnston of The Doobie Brothers.Bonnie RaittElvin Bishop, center, takes a solo as he jams with Bonnie Raitt, Steve Miller and Charlie Musselwhite, left to right, during a benefit tribute show for harmonica player Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, Jan. 22, 2010. Buffalo, who was born in Oakland, appeared on more than 180 albums in his career and spent 33 years with the Steve Miller Band. 100% of the concert proceeds will go to the Buffalo family. Buffalo died from cancer on Oct. 30.Bonnie Raitt jams with Elvin Bishop, Steve Miller and Charlie Musselwhite during a benefit tribute show for harmonica player Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theater in Oakland,Calif.on Friday, Jan.22, 2010Charlie Musselwhite and Bonnie Raitt during a benefit tribute show for harmonica player Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, Jan. 22, 2010Bonnie Raitt greets the crowd during a benefit tribute show for harmonica player Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theater in Oakland,Calif. on Friday, Jan.22, 2010.Bonnie Raitt jams with Steve Miller and Charlie Musselwhite during a benefit tribute show for harmonica player Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theater in Oakland,Calif.on Friday, Jan.22, 2010A crowd member applauds as Steve Miller, center left, jams with Bonnie Raitt, Charlie Musselwhite and Roy Rogers, left to right, during a benefit tribute show for harmonica player Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, Jan. 22, 2010. Buffalo, who was born in Oakland, appeared on more than 180 albums in his career and spent 33 years with the Steve Miller Band. 100% of the concert proceeds will go to the Buffalo family. Buffalo died from cancer on Oct. 30.Bonnie Raitt sits in with the Doobie Brothers during a benefit tribute show for harmonica player Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, Jan. 22, 2010. To the left is Patrick Simmons and to the right is Tom Johnston. Buffalo, who was born in Oakland, appeared on more than 180 albums in his career and spent 33 years with the Steve Miller Band. 100% of the concert proceeds will go to the Buffalo family. Buffalo died from cancer on Oct. 30.Maria Muldaur and Bonnie Raitt perform as part of the Tribute to the life of Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theatre on January 22, 2010 in Oakland, California.Bonnie Raitt points to the heavens as she and Steve Miller from the Steve Miller Band along with Doobie Bros performed in a tribute concert for the late Bay Area harmonic legend Norton Buffalo Saturday night Jan 23, 2010 at the Fox Theater in downtown Oakland.Tribute to Norton Buffalo at the Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif. on Jan. 22 & 23, 2010Tribute to Norton Buffalo - Poster

Nobody ever knew anybody like Norton Buffalo. It was his gift to make anyone he met feel like his friend. He played on more than 180 albums, and every one of the musicians who hired him thought he was their friend.

When Buffalo was diagnosed with lung cancer in September after getting off his summer tour with the Steve Miller Band, his longtime bandleader and close friend talked to Buffalo about putting together a benefit concert.

Three days before he died, a few short weeks later, Buffalo OKd Miller’s plans to bring some of Buffalo’s friends together for a pair of concerts that took place over the weekend at Oakland’s recently refurbished Fox Theater.

He died knowing that friends and admirers like Miller, the Doobie Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Charlie Musselwhite, George Thorogood and Huey Lewis agreed to play the shows. He told Miller he wanted the proceeds to pay off his mortgage.

Over the 33 years Buffalo played in his band, Miller did more than 5,000 shows with Buffalo, singing every song together. Miller introduced Buffalo every night as “my partner in harmony.” Buffalo’s death punched a hole in his heart. His widow, Lisa Flores, visited Miller’s hotel room Saturday afternoon and gave him Buffalo’s signature hat, scarf and his favorite harmonica.

“This is hard,” he said, standing on the side of the stage after introducing the opening act, Buffalo’s own band, the Knockouts.

Buffalo’s baby sister Josephine walked up to Miller on the side of the stage and introduced herself. Miller held her in a close embrace and they talked intensely. “I can’t get my head around the fact that he’s dead,” he told her.

Who can? All night, a procession of his musician colleagues took the stage and spoke of his spirit, his generosity, his talent, his goofy humor, his extraordinary love of mankind. Bonnie Raitt delivered extravagant, heartfelt praise and then launched a wrenching bottleneck blues on acoustic guitar, “I Can’t Get Over You.”

After her performance, she huddled with Miller on the side of the stage, their foreheads practically touching, arms over each other’s shoulders. Miller emerged weeping. At that exact moment, Elvin Bishop walked up to Miller with a small gift: a bottle of homemade hot sauce from peppers Bishop grows in his Lagunitas backyard. Miller uncapped the bottle and took a swig, as Bishop’s eyes widened.

“I’ve never seen it done like that,” Bishop said.

“It stopped me from crying,” said Miller, smiling.

Friends of Norton Buffalo

Friends of Norton Buffalo # 2

Bonnie R, Roy Rogers 1-22-10

Friends of Norton Buffalo #3

Steve Miller Band & Bonnie Raitt @ The Fox Theatre

Steve Miller Band with Bonnie Raitt & Charlie Musselwhite- Crossroads

All the musicians paid their own expenses – travel, hotel, food – and some went to extraordinary lengths to be there. Ricky Peterson, Raitt’s keyboard player, missed the Friday show because of weather conditions in Minnesota, where he lives. Marin County utility keyboard man Audie de Lone substituted, but Peterson was there for the second night to play a spectacular keyboard duet with Raitt on “Nick of Time” (Huey Lewis never made it out of snowy Montana).

The shows and silent auction seemed to be on target to raise the $250,000 goal, enough to cover his medical expenses and retire his mortgage.

The five-hour concert laid out a banquet of music. Everybody played with everybody. Bishop joined the Doobie Brothers to sing his song “My Dog” and rattle off some blistering guitar. He came back to play with Miller and add still more blistering guitar. Blues harmonica virtuoso Musselwhite sat in with Raitt, the Doobies and Miller. Raitt traded molten blues guitar solos with the boys – Miller and Bishop – during the Miller band set and sang “Listen to the Music” with the Doobies.

George Thorogood played Bo Diddley with Miller, shaking Buffalo’s maracas. Michael Carabello of the original Santana band took over for Buffalo on congas in Miller’s set. Miller himself played the harmonica part to “Livin’ in the U.S.A.” – like he did before and hasn’t since Buffalo joined the band in 1977.

The party flowed backstage. With a couple hundred sporting backstage passes, old friends were seeing one another for the first time in years in every corner. Freddie Herrera, who ran the Keystone Berkeley nightclub through the ’70s and ’80s, a silver-haired fox about to celebrate his 75th birthday, knelt in front of a bench holding George Thorogood, Elvin Bishop and Pat Simmons of the Doobie Brothers and hugged all of them at once.

Attorney General Jerry Brown, who as mayor oversaw the downtown Oakland development that the new Fox anchors, wandered around backstage, looking a little like he showed up at the wrong party. Of course, the entire place did reek of marijuana smoke.

Buffalo was everywhere. His friends told each other stories about him. Thorogood told about Buffalo telling him that he went to prisons to give inmates music lessons on different instruments in his spare time. “Spare time?” said Thorogood. When Buffalo wasn’t with Miller, he did dates all over the country with Roy Rogers and when they weren’t working, he played smaller gigs with the Knockouts. When he was home in Paradise (Butte County), he worked in a trio with his wife.

Miller promised Buffalo he would take care of his music. The Steve Miller Band has a new album in the can with Buffalo on every track. The musicians at the Fox talked about making the Norton memorial an annual event. People are only now beginning to get around to understanding what a huge loss this is.

E-mail Joel Selvin

Source Copyright ©: SFGate

Solid, blues-soaked all-stars pay loving tribute to the late, great Norton Buffalo

By Jim Harrington | jharrington@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News Group
January 23, 2010

OAKLAND — Nobody wanted it to happen. They all wished there was no need. Yet, they showed up to pay tribute to their fallen comrade Norton Buffalo, who died at age 58 on Oct. 30 after battling lung and brain cancer.

“We are going to miss him,” remarked the Doobie Brothers’ John McFee. “But the idea is for Norton to be here while we’re playing.”

And he was — at least in the hearts and thoughts of the performers and the sold-out audience that turned out to the “Tribute to Norton Buffalo: A Celebration of a Life” concert on Friday night at the Fox Theater in Oakland. The concert — which repeats tonight at the same venue — turned out to be a moving night of music that did justice to the great legacy of the Oakland-born, Richmond-raised harmonica hero.

The cast included Bonnie Raitt, the Doobies, Steve Miller, George Thorogood and Elvin Bishop, as well as many other artists that had worked with Buffalo over the decades. They gave of their time for many reasons — not the least of which was to raise money to help Buffalo’s family with the medical expenses incurred during the harmonicat’s illness. Perhaps the main reason, however, is that they knew Buffalo would have been there for them.

“If there was a good cause,” Maria Muldaur remarked during her time onstage with Bonnie Raitt, “Norton was there.”

That’s one of the reasons Buffalo was so popular in the local music community — by all accounts, he was an extremely generous and giving man. It’s that trait, more than all the platinum records that he played on as a sideman, which defines his legacy. It also explains why organizers were able to easily assemble such an impressive lineup for these tribute shows.

Following an opening set by Buffalo’s old band the Knockouts, Raitt took the stage and performed a blues-soaked set of solid tunes. Raitt, who’d enlisted Buffalo’s services on 1977’s “Sweet Forgiveness,” was joined by guests including Muldaur, harmonica guru Charlie Musselwhite and slide-guitarist-supreme Roy Rogers. Raitt was in fine voice and spirits throughout the set.

“Buff-a-palooza!” she howled to the crowd. “That’s what we got going on.”

The Doobie Brothers, who utilized Buffalo’s mighty talents on their Grammy-winning 1978 album “Minute by Minute,” followed Raitt and turned in what was surely the set of the night. The seven-piece band, which featured two drummers and three guitarists, chugged through a dozen great tunes that, collectively, screamed that the Doobies deserve to be enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The group, which was joined by Elvin Bishop for a few numbers, displayed mesmerizing harmonies and ace musicianship throughout the set. Some might’ve forgotten just how many stand out songs the Doobies have in their catalog, but the steady succession of hits performed at the Fox — including “Jesus is Just Alright,” “Listen to the Music,” “China Grove” and “Black Water” — served as a joyous reminder. It was odd, however, that the band shied away from playing the big hits from “Minute by Minute,” given that Buffalo appeared on that album.

The headlining slot was reserved for Buffalo’s best-known collaborator, Steve Miller. The two began making music together in the mid-’70s and Buffalo remained in Miller’s band for the rest of his life.

It was a treat to see Miller, who is accustomed to playing large outdoor amphitheaters, perform in a relatively intimate venue. He certainly provided plenty of bang for the buck by delivering a two-hour set.

Miller was joined by numerous guests, including Raitt and Thorogood. Unfortunately, Huey Lewis, who was scheduled to perform with Miller, didn’t make it. Miller announced that Lewis was stuck in Montana, which was a shame, since it would’ve been fun for fans to see the two Bay Area music legends trade vocals.

As expected, Miller connected most strongly with the audience when he booked through his greatest hits. Thousands of voices joined in the choruses to such favorites as “Take the Money and Run,” “Jet Airliner” and “Jungle Love.”

There was, of course, one voice missing, one that will be missed for years to come.


Read Jim Harrington’s Concert Blog at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts/.

Source Copyright ©: The Mercury News Some more photo’s:
Bay Area music stars shine in tribute to Norton Buffalo But wait, there's more!

Norton Buffalo Dies

on November 1, 2009 No comments

Norton Buffalo Dies

By Steve Brewer
November 1, 2009

Regular news outlets don’t seem to have the story yet, but several websites are reporting that harmonica legend Norton Buffalo died this weekend.

We reported here at the Corner Booth on Friday that the singer-songwriter and harmonica virtuoso was suffering lung cancer, and cancer also had been found in his brain. He was first diagnosed with cancer in September, and had retired to his home in Paradise during treatment. He was 58.

I first became aware of Buffalo in 1979, when he appeared as one of Bette Midler’s sidemen in the movie “The Rose.” I remember coming out of the theater, thinking, “Who WAS that guy?” From there, I tracked down his records and became a fan of Buffalo and of blues harmonica in general. But it wasn’t until after I moved to Redding that I finally saw him perform live (at MarketFest a few years ago).

Norton & Roy with Bonnie Raitt & Johnny Lee Schell Luther Burbank Center • Santa Rosa, CA
Norton & Roy with Bonnie Raitt & Johnny Lee Schell
Luther Burbank Center • Santa Rosa, CA

For three decades, Buffalo was a member of the Steve Miller Band. He also sat in with everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Jerry Garcia.

But perhaps his best work was in duets with blues guitarist Roy Rogers.
Here’s a music video of them together.

Ain’t no Bread in the Breadbox

Long Hard Road

Buffalo’s Serenade

Source Copyright ©: A News Cafe

Local harmonica legend Norton Buffalo dies

By RANDI ROSSMANN randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com – THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
November 1, 2009

Norton Buffalo © Pat Johnson
Norton Buffalo © Pat Johnson

Norton Buffalo, a harmonica virtuoso and “musician’s musician” who played with many of the biggest names in the music business, died Friday following a brief battle with lung cancer.

Buffalo, 58, called Sonoma County home for decades, living with his family in a Glen Ellen farmhouse.

He died Friday afternoon at Feather River Hospital in Paradise, said friends. Buffalo and his wife, Lisa Flores, moved from Glen Ellen to Paradise, near Chico, about four years ago.

“For years, he was a mainstay of the Sonoma County music scene here. We all had hopes that he could beat (the cancer),” said Bill Bowker, longtime Sonoma County DJ, music promoter and acquaintance of Buffalo’s.

“He was just one of these wonderful characters we’ve had and been blessed with in Sonoma County,” Bowker said.

Buffalo’s musical career took off in the 1970s when he played rock ‘n’ roll harmonica and sang harmony with the Steve Miller Band. He continued playing in the band until this past summer.

His Sonoma County ties came out in his music, including his first solo album, “Lovin’ In the Valley of the Moon,” released in 1977.

While still a key member of the Steve Miller Band, Buffalo also established himself in his own right as a one-of-a-kind harmonica player who could take on all musical genres — from blues, rock, jazz and honkey tonk to bluegrass and Beethoven.

Over the years, he accompanied a who’s who of musical greats, from the Grateful Dead to Bonnie Raitt, the Doobie Brothers and many others.

“Buffalo was certainly one of the greatest harmonica players there is. It’s not up for question,” said longtime musical partner and friend Roy Rogers. “Look at all the records he was on. He played with just about everybody.”

“People just felt better when they heard him play,” said Rogers, who toured worldwide with Buffalo in a pairing of the harmonica great with the renowned slide guitarist.

“A musician, a man went way too soon,” Rogers said Sunday.

“His death is going to leave a huge void (in the music world),” said Gary Silva, another longtime friend and musician, “ not only in the local community, but in the national and worldwide community.”

“He was a musician’s musician. Maybe he wasn’t a household name, but amongst musicians, his name was well known,” said Silva, a Sonoma Valley resident.

Buffalo also appeared in several TV shows and movies, including “The Rose” with Bette Midler and “Heaven’s Gate” with Kris Kristofferson.

He had his own band, Norton & the Knockouts, played more than 20 years with Rogers and also had a trio called Norton and Friends.

Beyond his musical talent, Buffalo was also remembered for his uncanny ability to nail a Walter Brennan impersonation, his flamboyant taste in clothing and his willingness to do the right thing for others, including playing many benefit concerts over the years.

“He was always fighting the good fight. Always for the underdog,” said Silva, a drummer who frequently played with Buffalo on tours. They traveled together throughout the Pacific Northwest in an RV often driven by Buffalo.

A prolific songwriter, he was always working on a new lyrics. It wasn’t uncommon for Buffalo to shout for Silva “to take the wheel quick” and he’d pull out a book and start writing, Silva said.

This summer, Buffalo was touring with the Steve Miller Band, and by late August, he was having trouble breathing.

A few days later, he was diagnosed with a late stage lung cancer that had spread to his brain.

Buffalo announced his illness on his Web site. But he also expressed a positive outlook and said he appreciated the support he was receiving.

Silva said he spoke with him just last week.

“… he sounded great, so strong. It really gave us all a lot of hope,” said Silva. “He had a lot of people praying for him all over the world. The support was just incredible.”

Just days from his death, Buffalo told Silva he was working on new songs. “‘I got a lot of music still in me,’” Buffalo assured his friend.

Buffalo went into a coma Thursday night and was put on life support, then died at about 3 p.m. Friday, Silva said.

Buffalo was born in Oakland and raised in Richmond. He was part of a musical family and took up the harmonica as a boy, according to his Web site.

Bowker, who offers a blues show on Sunday nights on KRSH, dedicated time Sunday to Buffalo’s blues side and today planned to honor the harmonica great’s other genres.

Although he’d moved away, Buffalo frequently came back to Sonoma County to see friends and play locally.

“We did see him often,” said Bowker. “Not just musically, those of us who’ve been in the county so long have fond memories of him.”

As well as his wife, Buffalo leaves three grown children, daughter Sierra, and sons Aisah and Elias.

Family members are planning a service in Paradise, as well as a service in Sonoma County, said Rogers.

Source Copyright ©: The Press Democrat

Harmonica star dies soon after being diagnosed with lung cancer

By Tim Parsons
November 7, 2009

Friends and musical partners of Norton Buffalo expressed shock and grief when the harmonica genius with a singular singing voice died less than two months after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Buffalo, who appears on 180 albums with numerous artists, died Oct. 30 in his hometown of Paradise, Calif. He was 58.

“He was like a brother,” said Roy Rogers, who played in a duo with Buffalo since 1987. “He was in the prime of his life, really. He was 58 and still blazing wonderfully.”

Guitarist Johnny Vernazza, who played in Buffalo’s band since 1979, was slated to perform in Eureka with him on Sept. 5. He said Buffalo called to say he was too weak to make the show. The next day he was diagnosed with cancer.

“That was the first one he ever canceled,” said Vernazza, who added: “Norton never smoked in his life.”

However, he performed for years in smoke-filled venues.

“When I started playing with Norton sometimes we were on the road two or three weeks in a row and all those places were just smoke fests,” Vernazza said. “I quit smoking at that time and I would wake up in the morning coughing. You had to wrap your clothes up in plastic before you put them in your bag.”

While Buffalo had his own band, the Knockouts, he also played in the Steve Miller Band.

“There are some people who pass through this world who are so unique and special they defy description, and Norton Buffalo was one of those people,” Miller wrote on his Web site, www.stevemillerband.com

Norton Buffalo (left) and Roy Rogers. Frame grab from Sierra Center Stage TV concert Series sponsored by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. 2004
Norton Buffalo (left) and Roy Rogers. Frame grab from Sierra Center Stage TV concert Series sponsored by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. 2004

Starting in 1991 with “R&B,” Rogers and Buffalo recorded three albums together, and Buffalo appeared on several more of Rogers’ solo albums. Between their other projects, Buffalo and Rogers never stopped playing duet concerts.

“It was like hand in glove,” Rogers said. “Norton and I realized early on, it just fit so well. We could each be busy in doing other things and get back to it after not played together for months and we never lost a beat. Never had to rehearse. It was always there for us, and we both appreciated how special that is.”

Rogers and several other artists will perform a Nov. 22 benefit for Buffalo’s family, wife Lisa Flores-Buffalo and children Aisah of Lake Tahoe and Elias, 24, of Sonoma, and stepson Bo Winterburn.

Buffalo’s life will be celebrated Jan. 23 at the Fox Theater in Oakland in a benefit which includes performances by Vernazza, Miller, the Doobie Brothers, Huey Lewis, George Thorogood, Charlie Musselwhite and Bonnie Raitt.

Buffalo’s harmonica is featured on Raitt’s biggest hit, “Runaway”.

“There’s a lot of chord changes in that song, and to play a solo over it isn’t easy, and Norton just nailed it,” Vernazza said. “I think he had to use five harps.”

Rogers said he visited Buffalo a week after he was diagnosed with cancer.

“He was in some pain, but he was in good spirits,” Rogers said. “Buffalo always was a positive guy in spite of anything that was happening, and that was just infectious. He was always upbeat, as he was through this. He knew it was a serious diagnosis.”

Vernazza last saw Buffalo on Oct. 4.

“It’s still a shock, but I knew there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of time,” said Vernazza.

Buffalo’s final Tahoe performance was March 2009 at the Blues Summit at the Crystal Bay Casino. He opened the show, then sat in with headliner Marcia Ball.

“Norton was a true gentleman,” said Bill Wood, the casino manager. “He always had a smile on his face, was positive and the consummate professional. When Marcia invited him onstage to play a few tunes she introduced Norton as ‘the great Norton Buffalo and I don’t throw the word great around lightly.’ ”

Buffalo appeared in fine health that evening, performing on both ends of the bill.

“That was another blessing in Norton’s life,” Vernazza said. “He not only had the talent but he also had the business mind and the pure energy that no one else in the world had. That’s why no one noticed he was getting sick, I think.”

Source Copyright ©: Tahoe Daily Tribune

A tribute to Norton Buffalo

October 31, 2009

Rest in Peace, brother

Norton Buffalo 1951-2009

Last week at Westfest 2009 in Golden Gate Park, David Denny, another member of the Steve Miller Band (wrote The Stake on Book of Dreams) played a very heartfelt tribute to Norton Buffalo. Norton had recently been diagnosed with cancer and passed away yesterday. The tribute was Back to the Island, a Leon Russell song, here it is…

tip: most convenient way to listen while browsing along is to use the popup button of the player.

we love you Norton! – David Denny, October 25, 2009, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

update: Monday, November 2nd, 2009. I received word that Norton Buffalo did actually find out this song was performed in his honor before he died last Friday. On Monday, October 26, 2009, the very next day after Westfest, Norton called David Denny to thank him. But he may have never actually heard the song, unless he was watching on the internet. Norton died 5 days later.

update: November 1, 2009 >>> there will be another tribute to Norton Buffalo today, Sunday on the show Good Olde Fashioned Folk Show on KHCO Chico (should be 1-2pm PST Sunday, November 1st). This show is now recorded and archived here (first 5 minutes are choppy due to connection, but stable after that)

Also tonight, Sunday > Blues with Bowker – Bill Bowker – Sunday Evenings 7-10pm on The Crush, Healdsburg KRSH from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat
KRSH Healdsburg tribute recorded and archived.

Also KVMR in Nevada City where they said that tonight there are many stations across Northern California playing tribute to Norton. There was a brief live link between KRSH and KVMR. Hope somebody recorded the KVMR show.

Nortons life will be celebrated Jan. 23 at the Fox Theater in Oakland in a benefit concert starring the Steve Miller Band and the Doobie Brothers, with special guests Huey Lewis, George Thorogood, Charlie Musselwhite and Bonnie Raitt.

Norton Buffalo performs with his band The Knockouts at the 2008 Mountain Harvest Festival in Quincy © Roxann Vallado
Norton Buffalo performs with his band The Knockouts at the 2008 Mountain Harvest Festival in Quincy
© Roxann Vallado

David Denny and friends, last week (performers are Carlos Reyes on violin, Byron Allred on keyboards, and Greg Douglass on guitar, Prairie Prince of The Tubes on drums

David Denny - West Fest the 40th anniversary of Woodstock in Golden Gate Park - October 25, 2009 © Dave Golden
David Denny – West Fest the 40th anniversary of Woodstock in Golden Gate Park – October 25, 2009
© Dave Golden
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Source Copyright ©: Bluoz blog

Gone too soon

Saying good-bye to Norton Buffalo
By Jaime O’Neill

Harmonica great Norton Buffalo was a member of the Steve Miller Band for more than 30 years, and played with other heavy hitters, including Roy Rogers, the Doobie Brothers and bluesman Charlie Musselwhite. © Alan Sheckter
Harmonica great Norton Buffalo was a member of the Steve Miller Band for more than 30 years, and played with other heavy hitters, including Roy Rogers, the Doobie Brothers and bluesman Charlie Musselwhite.
© Alan Sheckter

In remembering the late Norton Buffalo, Charlie Musselwhite, friend and fellow harp maestro, said: “I can’t think of any harmonica player I ever knew who exhibited such pure joy with his music. What a nice gift he gave to us every time he played. I know he inspired many people to take up music and harmonica. He left the world a better place. No doubt about it.”

Buffalo, one of the world’s premier harmonica players, died last Friday (Oct. 30) in Paradise, a victim of lung cancer. He was 58. His family was with him when he died.

From somewhere out on the road he and Buffalo had traveled together for so long, slide guitarist Roy Rogers added this comment: “Norton was like a brother, not only to me, but to a lot of people, which is a testament to what kind of man he was. Besides being a great musician, he was truly a great human being. As a musical partner he cannot be replaced. We performed and traveled around the world together for over 20 years. I shall miss him greatly.”

Buffalo was a good man who brightened the world wherever he went, not only with his music, but also with his irrepressible spirit. He and his wife, Lisa Flores-Buffalo, used to play quiet little gigs at one of Buffalo’s favorite places—Angelo’s Cucina Trinicria, a Chico restaurant where a picture of a younger Norton Buffalo adorns the wall of the entryway. The couple played there because they loved the food, and they loved Angelo, the man who cooked the food.

“I’m playing for my supper,” Buffalo told me once, and he gave the same love and devotion to those quiet Sicilian songs that he did to the upbeat rockers and blues tunes he played on the world’s bigger stages, on those nights he shared as a member of the Steve Miller Band, or with Roy Rogers, or with his own band, the Knockouts.

When he came off of his last tour with Steve Miller, he was already dying of the cancer that was diagnosed soon after he got home. I wrote about that diagnosis for this paper, but I don’t think Buffalo was too happy with the dire tone of the piece.

“You Irish guys,” he teased me in a phone call, “always eager to hold a wake.”

He knew how sick he was, but by his very nature he wasn’t about to give up, and he wasn’t going to be glum about his prospects. On his Web site, he made a few entries about the progression of his disease. On Sept. 2, he posted a note in celebration of his 34 years of making music with his friend, Steve Miller, but he added: “when we arrived in New York City on the morning of August 17, I knew that something was seriously wrong with my body. I spent several hours seeking out a pulmonary doctor who would see me.

“I found a great doctor, and he diagnosed that I had pneumonia … and that I had probably had it for the entire summer tour. I was prescribed a course of antibiotics and considering that we only had 7 shows to go … and that I’d already made it through the whole summer with this bug untreated, that I could take the drugs and tough it out till the tour was finished, as I would certainly be getting better each day. The following shows went about the same, still very hard to breathe. Where Is My Air?”

The progression of his illness was swift and merciless.

On Oct. 22 Buffalo posted his last comment: “I truly believe I will heal,” he wrote. “I am so blessed to have my truly amazing angel, Lisa, by my side to help keep me on my path and to care for me … and I have an army of friends, musical brothers and sisters as well as thousands of fans from around the world who are keeping me in their thoughts and prayers as I move into these perilous waters.”

Since he relocated to Butte County, Buffalo has given a series of benefits at the Paradise Performing Arts Center, raising money for good causes. On Nov. 22, there will be one last Buffalo benefit show there (which is already sold out), but this time the proceeds and the proceedings will be for Norton Buffalo.

In memoriam
Tickets for the memorial concert Nov. 22 at the Paradise Performing Arts Center are sold out. Another memorial show is planned for Jan. 23 at the Fox Theater in Oakland starring the Steve Miller Band and the Doobie Brothers, along with Huey Lewis, George Thorogood, Charlie Musselwhite and Bonnie Raitt.

Source Copyright ©: News Review

Bay Area music stars ready to honor Norton Buffalo

By Jim Harrington – Oakland Tribune
01/15/2010

Norton Buffalo (illustration by James Gayles)
Norton Buffalo (illustration by James Gayles)

Steve Miller knew Norton Buffalo was special from the first time they shared the stage together.

It was in 1975, not long after Miller finished recording “Fly Like An Eagle,” the multiplatinum smash that would make the Bay Area singer one of the biggest stars in the rock universe. The setting was a low-key jam session in San Rafael, where Miller joined Buffalo for a few numbers. The chemistry, recalls Miller, was so immediate and undeniable that Buffalo soon became a vital part of the Steve Miller Band and remained so for the rest of his life.

“I just thought he was magnificent,” Miller said during a recent phone interview from his Idaho home. “He just became my partner in harmony. I don’t know how many gigs we did, 4,000, 5,000, just a huge number of performances, and he never once held back. I think he was that way with everyone he worked with.”

It was that giving nature, more than all the gold-and-platinum records that he appeared on, that made Buffalo such an important part of the Northern California music scene for 40 years, and a key reason why he’ll be so dearly missed.

Buffalo, who was born in Oakland and raised in Richmond, died Oct. 30, less than two months after being diagnosed with brain and lung cancer. His passing, at age 58, was a devastating blow to a Bay Area music community that treasured Buffalo’s tireless involvement.

To show their respect, love and admiration, many of Buffalo’s most-notable collaborators — including Miller, the Doobie Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Huey Lewis and Roy Rogers — will join for “Norton Buffalo Tribute” concerts Friday and Saturday at the Fox Theater in Oakland. Proceeds will help cover the medical costs and other expenses Buffalo’s family incurred during the musician’s illness. (Both nights are sold out, but contributions to the family are still welcome at www.norton-buffalo.com.)

Most expect the tribute concerts to be emotional affairs, as friends, fans and family members continue on the long road of coming to terms with Buffalo’s death. The fact that it all happened so quickly only makes it harder.

“I don’t think people have begun to realize that Norton is not here,” Miller says.

Behind the scenes

Buffalo was never a huge star. Instead, he’ll be remembered as the sideman that made other musicians sound better. He was also known as a player that could handle just about any style of music, from blues and rock to country and, even, Hawaiian.

“You wanted Norton Buffalo on your record,” says Bay Area slide guitarist Roy Rogers, one of Buffalo’s most frequent collaborators. “Norton was really the quintessential guy to call upon.”

And many did — it’s estimated that Buffalo played on more than 180 albums during his career. His more notable recordings include the Doobies’ Grammy-winning 1978 album “Minute by Minute,” Miller’s multiplatinum 1977 work “Book of Dreams” and Bonnie Raitt’s 1977 Top 40 outing “Sweet Forgiveness.” Yet, he also was a sideman on scores of records that never hit the charts.

“He would take on your project with all the same enthusiasm that you had,” Miller says. “With some session guys, you know, each lick was so much money. It never felt that way with Norton. With anybody he ever worked with, he gave you 110 percent of what he had. He was just a joy to work with, and he delivered like very few people do.”

Born into a musical family — his father was also a harmonica player and his mother sang in nightclubs — Buffalo was nothing short of a virtuoso on his instrument. After graduating from Kennedy High School in Richmond in 1969, he sharpened his craft by playing alongside blues hero Elvin Bishop and in the bands Clover and the Moonlighters in the ’70s, before coming to Miller’s attention.

“He was a phenomenal harmonica player,” Miller remarks. “He was a great soloist — compared to guitar players or horn players or anything, he was absolutely one of the best in the world at what he did. There was Toots (Thielemans), there was Charlie McCoy and there was Norton. And then after that there was just a bunch of pretenders.”

Miller thought so highly of his sideman that he persuaded his label, Capitol Records, to sign Buffalo to a recording contract. That resulted in two well-regarded records — 1977’s “Lovin’ in the Valley of the Moon” and 1978’s “Desert Horizon” — but not in superstardom.

He continued releasing his own records on smaller labels (such as San Francisco’s blues-centric Blind Pig) throughout this career. Some came as the leader of his own band, the Knockouts, while others were tandem productions with Rogers. Of the latter, the duo’s 1991 debut, “R&B,” would produce the Grammy-nominated country instrumental tune “Song for Jessica.”

Born to jam

For all his time spent in the studio, Buffalo did some of his best work in concert. Whether he was sharing an amphitheater stage with Miller or fronting his own ensemble at a small nightclub, the harmonicat — who was also an accomplished vocalist — certainly knew how to work the crowd.

“Onstage, he was magic,” says Buffalo’s widow, Lisa Flores-Buffalo. “He always brought a magic and an energy level that was incomparable.”

Lisa Flores was living in Washington when she first laid eyes on her future husband, who was performing at a blues festival. She met him later that night and the spark — as seemingly was the case in all first encounters with the man — was immediate.

“It was love at first sight and we never looked back,” she says. “I just fell in love with his spirit. He was just such a beautiful and vibrant soul.”

She followed him back to his home in Sonoma, and they were soon married. Not long after, they moved to the town of Paradise in Butte County, where Flores-Buffalo still lives.

Buffalo was an active part of the Paradise community during the last years of his life, lending his support and talent to various projects. “Norton did so much community service,” Miller says. “He did so many benefits for so many people. Every community he lived in, he was there giving his time and his energy. If everybody raised his hand that he did a benefit for, it would be in the thousands.”

Buffalo was also naturally upbeat, a trait that didn’t desert him during his battle with cancer.

“He knew he was really sick, but he remained very positive,” Rogers remarked. “He was going to beat this thing or meet it head on.”

It’s still hard for many fans and friends to fathom that Buffalo lost the fight. There will be some disbelief still in the air when his all-star friends gather to honor his life at the Fox Theater. The hope is that the occasion will bring some sense of closure, but also serve to prop open the door for many to learn about Buffalo’s music.

“I think as time goes on, his reputation and his legacy will become bigger and bigger,” Miller says. “There are just some people who pass through the world that are unique and special and defy description. Norton was one of those people.”

Read Jim Harrington’s Concert Blog at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.

PREVIEW
WHAT: Tribute to Norton Buffalo
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday
WHERE: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
TICKETS: $49.50-$125 (currently listed as sold out), 800-745-3000, www.apeconcerts.com
DONATIONS to Norton Buffalo’s family can be made through www.norton-buffalo.com.

Source Copyright ©: The Mercury News

Some of the biggest names in rock come out to honor the late Norton Buffalo

by Paul Liberatore
01/14/2010

Norton Buffalo © Pat Johnson
Norton Buffalo © Pat Johnson

Musicians Roy Rogers, Huey Lewis and Bonnie Raitt will gather in Oakland for memorial concerts on Jan. 22 and 23 for their friend Norton Buffalo, who died in October at age 58.

Next weekend, some of the biggest names in rock gather at the Fox Theatre in Oakland to honor a special person in Bay Area music, the late harmonica virtuoso Norton Buffalo, a consummate musician, an all around good guy and an absolutely unforgettable character.
I spoke to three of Norton’s musician friends – Bonnie Raitt, Huey Lewis and slide guitarist Roy Rogers – about their memories of him. They will all be on the bill of the sold-out memorial concerts, Jan. 22 and 23, both benefits for Buffalo’s family.

Norton, who was in Steve Miller’s band for 33 years, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer that had spread to his brain at the end of last summer’s tour with Miller. As he struggled to breathe, he said “it seemed that there just wasn’t enough air on the planet.” But, with his trademark good humor and positive attitude, he concentrated on getting well.

“I am putting all of my energy into healing my body, focusing all of my spirit on divine beauty, love and positive thinking,” he wrote on his Web site. “With the grace of God, I will rise above and get through this.”

When he openly announced his illness, he was overwhelmed by a tremendous outpouring of love and support from his friends and fans.

“He and I had some great conversations after his diagnosis,” Raitt recalled. “He was so positive. He finished our last conversation doing his famous Walter Brennan imitation. He was giving me a pep talk.”

Despite his great attitude and his attempts to heal using both Western medicine and alternative treatments, Buffalo died Oct. 30, less than two months after he was diagnosed. He was 58.
A lot of us, friends and fans alike, are still having a hard time getting our heads around the fact that he’s gone.

“I knew he was really sick, but it caught everybody by surprise how quickly he passed away,” Rogers told me. “But in Norton’s great style, he said he was going to think positive thoughts and live for as long as he could.”

Buffalo was such a memorable human being that I clearly remember the first time I saw him, and the last.

The first was in the mid-1970s when he played a club in Fairfax with his band, the Stampede, and just knocked me out. His band swung like mad, and at a time when we were trying to look like urban cowboys, he was cutting-edge cool in his retro clothes. “He had a very distinct personality and look,” is the way Raitt put it.

And I’d never heard anyone play the harmonica like Norton Buffalo.

“Quite simply put, he’s one of the best harmonica players ever,” Lewis said. “Since I play the harp (harmonica), too, you’d think there would be some kind of rivalry. Well first of all he was twice as good as I was. And he was such a sweet guy. We fell in love with each other in a way.”

Rogers, who recorded three duet albums with Buffalo, called him “the best of the best.”

If you want to see and hear what they’re talking about, Google the YouTube video of Buffalo’s incredible solo on the song “Runaway” with Raitt‘s band in a live 1977 performance on the TV show “Midnight Special.” Norton plays four harmonicas in different keys, pulling them out of his pockets in quick succession like a magician producing rabbits from a hat.

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“Of course we can do that in the recording studio, but how he pulled that off live I’ll never know,” Raitt said, still sounding amazed. “That’s when we became buddies. He was incredibly musical.”

If you go to Buffalo’s Web site, you can see the various causes he supported. As evidence of his political and social activism, the last time I saw him was at the Stop the Spray benefit concert in Sausalito a little more than a year ago.

He was his usual, gregarious self, telling me about how happy he was with his wife, Lisa (he called her “my truly amazing angel”), and with their life together after moving from Novato to Paradise, his aptly named hometown in the Sierra foothills.

“He was in such a good place personally,” Rogers recalled. “That’s why it’s all the more sad. He’d met the love of his life. He said Lisa was the best thing that ever happened to him, and he meant it.”

The memorial concerts are sold out. But for anyone who would like information on how to donate to Norton’s family, go online at www.norton-buffalo.com (don’t forget the hyphen).

“He was such a beloved man,” Roy said. “He befriended so many people from so many walks of life. What a legacy to have been loved as much as he was.”

Contact Paul Liberatore via e-mail at liberatore@marinij.com; follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LibLarge

Source Copyright ©: Marin Independent Journal For more about his career:
The Official Norton Buffalo website
Norton’s MySpace page But wait, there's more!