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Kenny Edwards, Prominent Figure in West Coast Country-Rock, Dies in California
Linda Ronstadt remembers Kenny Edwards: ‘A beacon to me’

on August 20, 2010 No comments

Photo by Gabriel Judet-Weinshel

Kenny Edwards Dies in California

Kenny Edwards, a musician and singer who worked extensively with Linda Ronstadt, died Wednesday (Aug. 18) in Santa Barbara, Calif., following a battle with cancer and a blood disorder. He was 64.
Edwards became a prominent member of the West Coast country-rock community as a founding member of the Stone Poneys, the band that introduced Ronstadt to a national audience with their 1967 hit, “Different Drum.” After the group disbanded, Edwards later played a key role in her solo success on albums such as Heart Like a Wheel, Prisoner in Disguise, Hasten Down the Wind, Simple Dreams and Living in the U.S.A..

As a guitarist, bassist and vocalist, he also contributed to recordings by Don Henley, Warren Zevon, Bonnie Raitt (vocals on album “The Glow” 1979), J.D. Souther and many others.
His country-related credits include projects with Vince Gill, Kathy Mattea, David Lee Murphy and John Cowan. Edwards produced and performed on Karla Bonoff’s self-titled debut album released in 1977. He and Bonoff were also members of Bryndle, a group that also included singer-songwriters Wendy Waldman and Andrew Gold.

Source: © Copyright CMT

Linda Ronstadt remembers Kenny Edwards: ‘A beacon to me’

August 20, 2010

Linda Ronstadt spoke with me Thursday, generously sharing many memories of guitarist-singer-songwriter-producer Kenny Edwards, who died Wednesday at age 64. Edwards was a founder of the Stone Poneys, the band with whom Ronstadt first surfaced nationally when they scored a hit single with their version of Monkee Michael Nesmith’s song “Different Drum.” They met during an especially fertile time in the history of L.A. pop music, particularly in and around Santa Monica circa the early to mid-1960s. He became a key member of her band through her commercial peak in the 1970s and into the 1980s, until she made her shift to singing music of the pre-rock era. He also worked alongside musicians including Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Ringo Starr, Karla Bonoff, Wendy Waldman and numerous others.

I met Kenny when I was about to turn 18 and he was 17. I had just come from Tucson, and I was immediately drawn to him because we both had very eclectic tastes. He was incredibly sophisticated. He knew how to play the sitar, he had seen Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan and knew about people like Inez Foxx and the Staple Singers, and he could play all of it.

I knew him as a blues guitar player; we had both gone to see a show by the band Ry Cooder was in, the Rising Sons. Kenny introduced me to a lot of stuff. He was always beautifully dressed, kind of like a cross between working class and a college professor — tweed jackets — it was a very interesting look…. He was also really smart. He always read good stuff. I remember he was reading Thomas Mann when he was 17.

When the Stone Poneys were going, we’d get together and he’d cook Indian food. He loved to cook — he’d cook for days. He would also go to Pink’s — he always knew where to get the best burger in town — or he’d go down for a night at the Apple Pan. He was the male version of [Leonard Cohen’s] “Suzanne”: “He shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers.”

We had a little house on Hart [Avenue in Santa Monica], and in one block, the Doors lived across the street, Pete Seeger’s dad lived in another house and the whole Seeger family thing was going there, [actor] Ron Perlman lived in another. There was a soul food restaurant in the neighborhood and you could walk to the Nuart [Theatre].  I got exposed to a cultural world I never knew about. It was a hippie crash pad, but it cost $60 a month, which was split about 15 ways. I could make $30 last for a month.

When the Stone Poneys started, Kenny had never sung, we [Tucson transplants Ronstadt and Bobby Kimmel] drafted him and kind of forced him to sing harmony. Later, when he started singing harmony with Andrew [Gold on her early ‘70s solo records], that became an important part of my sound. Having those strong male voices behind me gave me a chance to sing the high leads.

He had excellent creative ideas, and didn’t always get the credit that others did. When we recorded “You’re No Good,” Andrew gets the obvious credits, but Kenny supplied the skeleton, the basic framework of that low guitar and bass part that gave it a completely different sound. That gave Peter [Asher] and Andrew something to build on.

Kenny’s voice was like a laser beam. He was really strong. He was always a good singer, but back then it was always kind of a festival-seating approach. He’d move around to place a note wherever it would fit. His later stuff became so refined. His singing got so accurate and precise. He didn’t really have an arc in his career, he just kept getting better and better.

He was always a beacon to me, and his opinion always counted a lot for me. The great thing about watching what he’d been doing in recent years is how much he enjoyed it. He dreamed good dreams and he lived them out.

— Randy Lewis

Source: © Copyright Pop & Hiss – The L.A. Times music blog

Kenny Edwards dies at 64; guitarist-singer played key role in Linda Ronstadt’s emergence

By Randy Lewis

Kenny Edwards, a founding member of the Stone Poneys country-rock band that launched Linda Ronstadt’s career and a valued supporting guitarist and singer for Stevie Nicks, Don Henley and numerous others, died Wednesday after battling cancer and a blood disorder in recent years. He was 64.

Edwards had collapsed earlier this month in Denver while on tour with singer-songwriter Karla Bonoff, a longtime musical partner. He was diagnosed with the blood disorder thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, or TTP, and also had been undergoing chemotherapy for prostate cancer. He was hospitalized in Denver, then air-lifted to a hospital near his home in Santa Barbara, where he died.

“He was always a beacon to me,” Ronstadt said Thursday. “He introduced me to so much stuff, and his opinion always counted a lot to me.”

She credited Edwards with creating the musical framework for her only No. 1 single, “You’re No Good,” in 1974.

“He came up with that guitar and bass idea that gave it a very different sound, and really gave Andrew [Gold] and Peter [Asher] something to build on….When he and Andrew started singing together with me, that became a really important part of my sound. He was always a really good ensemble player.”

Shortly after the Stone Poneys disbanded after their 1967 breakthrough hit “Different Drum,” which established Ronstadt as a rising star from the nascent Southern California country-rock scene, Edwards teamed with singer-songwriter Wendy Waldman, Bonoff and Gold to form the folk-rock band Bryndle. Bonoff issued a statement Thursday thanking Edwards “for being my teacher, my musical partner and my best friend for the last 43 years.”

“There was a certain attitude toward music, a hybridization of styles, that came out of Kenny’s blood,” Waldman said. “He was so significant in the building of Ronstadt’s sound.”

Kenneth Michael Edwards was born Feb. 10, 1946, in Santa Monica, the son of Kenneth Clyde Edwards and Mary Carol Edwards. He grew up in the nearby Mar Vista neighborhood, attended Venice High School, learned to swim in the Pacific Ocean and was a lifelong surfer, but early on music became a passion, sparked by nightly guitar-playing sessions with his father.

Barely out of high school, he formed the Stone Poneys in 1965 with Bobby Kimmel, a Tucson musician who had moved to Los Angeles to explore the burgeoning folk-rock scene that had been spearheaded by the Byrds and would soon yield Buffalo Springfield and later the Eagles, who were Ronstadt’s backing singers and musicians before the group’s own career took off.

Edwards and Kimmel worked for a time at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, which was a hub for musicians as well as fans of folk, country, bluegrass and blues music. “My friend Bobby Kimmel said, ‘I know this great singer from Tucson, why don’t we see if the three of us can hit it off?’ ” Edwards told the Monterey County Weekly last year. “We certainly did.”

With Ronstadt on board, the Stone Poneys recorded “Different Drum,” written by Monkees member Mike Nesmith, and watched it rise to No. 13 on the Billboard national Hot 100 sales chart. They put another song, “Up to My Neck in High Muddy Water,” in the Top 100 before the Stone Poneys called it quits.

Bryndle landed a deal with A&M Records, but the label decided not to release the debut album the quartet recorded. They reunited in 1995 and belatedly issued a new album to serve as Bryndle’s debut, and toured the United States and Japan.

After Bryndle’s first career phase fizzled, Edwards rejoined Ronstadt and suggested she record songs by his former band mate Bonoff, whom Ronstadt subsequently turned to repeatedly over the years. When Bonoff got her own deal as a solo artist, she asked Edwards to produce her 1977 debut album.

Edwards was known during the ’70s primarily as a guitarist and singer, but in 1976 he collaborated with Ronstadt and her father as a songwriter on “Lo Siento Mi Vida,” a ballad from her “Hasten Down the Wind” album that reflected a shared love for the Mexican music that also was part of the cultural stew surrounding him as a youth in Southern California.

Edwards downplayed his abilities as a singer and a songwriter for years until he put out his debut solo album in 2002.

He finished and released a second album, “Resurrection Road,” last November.

“Whatever humility or self-doubt he had, he put it out there,” Waldman said. “I always thought he was a great singer, and a great songwriter. He got better over time, which was really fantastic. But I always thought he was great…. He was my main musical ally and chief songwriting collaborator. I was counting yesterday, and every single record I’ve made since ’91 or ’92, I worked with Kenny on.”

Edwards is survived by his mother.

A multi-artist performance Sunday at Zoey’s Café in Ventura, which had been booked before Edwards died as a benefit show to help pay his medical bills, has been converted into a memorial concert.

Source: © Copyright Los Angeles Times Info: The Musicians’ Olympus But wait, there's more!

Little Feat’s Richie Hayward: 1946-2010

on August 12, 2010 No comments

Richie Hayward, Little Feat co-founder, has died

Little Feat co-founder Richie Hayward has died after a long battle with liver disease. He was 64.

Richie Hayward © Hank Randall
Richie Hayward © Hank Randall

Hayward played drums in the seminal band throughout its entire career. In the late 1960s he played with original Little Feat frontman Lowell George in the band’s precursor The Factory. George and Hayward co-founded Little Feat in 1969 along with Bill Payne and Roy Estrada. They established a distinctive style of improvisational southern rock that mixed elements of blues, rock boogie and funk. Little Feat went on hiatus in 1978 and officially parted ways a year later after George died of an accidental overdose. Hayward helped reform the band in 1987 and continued to play with the group until last year when health concerns prevented him touring. Hayward lived in British Columbia at the time of his death.


Little Feat – Spanish Moon (Live at Lisner Auditorium, Washington, DC, 8/8/1977


Westhampton Performing Arts Center – Richie Hayward’s drum solo during Fat Man In The Bathtub 01.03.2009


Little Feat – Dixie Chicken (with Emmylou Harris & Bonnie Raitt) Live 1977


Richie You Ain’t Gone – Footage of Drummer Richie Hayward playing second line, taken not long before his death. Richie’s beat is carried on by all the drummers that knew him and his memory lives on.

“We saw him just recently,” longtime Little Feat member Paul Barrere said in a recent interview. “We played up in his hometown of Comox, British Columbia. He looked surprisingly well. Thinner, but he didn’t look emaciated in any way. He gets fatigued fairly easily. He had a recent CAT scan of his liver, and they are waiting on the results of that to see if they will put him on the transplant list. His residency has been established, so I believe he is eligible for the NHS [National Health Service], which is wonderful. When he saw us, he was in great spirits. I talked to him a couple of days ago and he said he misses us already. He’s such a fighter. Richie’s amazing. If a cat has nine lives, Richie’s got 18.”

Hayward was also an accomplished sideman and played on recordings by such diverse artists as Eric Clapton, Warren Zevon, Travis Tritt, Robert Palmer, Tom Waits, Taj Mahal, Barbra Streisand, John Cale, Buddy Guy, Arlo Guthrie, Carly Simon, Bob Seger and many others. Hayward and Little Feat also collaborated with a new generation of jammers in the ’90s and ’00s, including Jimmy Herring, Bela Fleck, String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon and Warren Haynes. The band’s association with Phil Lesh & Friends and cover of Phish’s “Sample in a Jar” also brought an element of improvisation back into the group’s live sound. In addition, he played in the jamband all-star band Justice League with Herring, T. Lavitz and and Adam Nitty.

Many musicians, ranging from the members of Leftover Salmon to Little Feat, played benefit shows for Hayward in the past year. He had no insurance at the time his condition was diagnosed. Fab Faux guitarist Jimmy Vivino also saluted the musician from the stage with Gov’t Mule at New York’s Central Park SummerStage last night.

His last public performance was a sit in with Little Feat at the Vancouver Island MusicFest on July 11, 2010.

Source: © Copyright

Richie Hayward saved his best feat for his last performance

Tom Hawthorn
Published August 15, 2010
Updated May 11, 2018

Richie Hayward always had a smile on his face when he played the drums!

Richie Hayward wore a red fleece sweater with a hood. Sitting just offstage, he shivered beneath a blanket.

He huddled near a sound board, as though the heat it generated was a camp fire.

It was summer, but the sun had gone down and a wind had come up.

Mr. Hayward was sick. He had been diagnosed with liver cancer almost exactly a year earlier. He had played a final show in Montana with Little Feat, the band for which he had been the drummer for four decades, before leaving the tour to recuperate at home in Courtenay.

A year before the diagnosis, he had married Shauna Drayson, a Comox Valley woman who can be found on weekends serving food to the homeless. Her business involves providing companion services for seniors. Now, her compassion and her skills were needed at home.

She stood beside her husband as Little Feat performed as the final, headlining act at Vancouver Island MusicFest last month.

The plan was for the drummer to join in for a few songs.

No one was certain if he would have the strength.

Little Feat is one of those bands musicians appreciate, whose songs appear on lists of best-driving tunes, whose fans wax rhapsodically about a never-ending rock, soul, blues, funk groove.

Critics love ’em and the English hail them as original American geniuses.

Mr. Hayward was born in 1946 in Clear Lake, Iowa, a resort town later to be infamous for a plane wreck. The great Buddy Holly, as well as Ritchie Valens and deejay the Big Bopper, died after performing at the Surf Ballroom, as their plane crashed into a snowy cornfield three days before Hayward’s 13th birthday.

In 1966, Mr. Hayward answered an advertisement in a Los Angeles underground newspaper: “Drummer wanted – must be freaky.” He eventually formed a band with Lowell George that came to be Little Feat, an outfit that took all the musical ingredients America had to offer before mixing it through a New Orleans blender. Mr. Hayward’s rhythm became a Little Feat signature.

The band split up after Mr. George died of a heart attack in 1979, before re-forming several years later. Meanwhile, the drummer became a much-in-demand session player, as well as performer. His credits read like a who’s-who list from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – from Bob Dylan to Warren Zevon, including the likes of Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder, Robert Plant, Tom Waits, Buddy Guy, and James Cotton.

If you’ve listened to rock music some time in the past 40 years, you’ve likely tapped your toe and bobbed your head to Richie Hayward.

More recently, you could find him attending jam sessions at Comox Valley pubs, grooving to the music and, on occasion, taking a turn on the drum stool. He hung out with Pacific Disturbance, a local five-piece rocking blues band.

It was his misfortune to be an American without health insurance, and, though married to a Canadian and living in Canada, not yet qualified for our system.

His musician friends held a fundraiser in Courtenay last September that raised $53,439.63 for his medical bills.

Others made contributions through the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund.

Friends who called themselves the North Pole Allstars recorded a “funky labour of love” called Santa Gotta Get Some, proceeds from the exclusive download going to his fund.

When the drummer’s wife let it be known that his children and stepchildren had not seen him perform, Little Feat were enlisted for a concert on Vancouver Island.

They had performed the night before at a beer festival at Chico, Calif. They drove several hours to San Francisco airport, flew to Vancouver, then boarded a charter flight to Comox Valley Airport. It was a long haul and a quick turnaround in 24 hours and not all their equipment made the trip.

No one was certain if he would have the strength to perform.

At last, he joined the band onstage to sing along to Don’t Bogart That Joint (the Jamaican national anthem, his wife quipped online) before settling behind the drum kit onto a stool that bore his name.

“He went from freezing on the side of the stage and looking very fragile before turning into this monster drummer,” said Doug Cox, the festival’s artistic director.

He played three songs – Spanish Moon, Skin it Back and Fat Man in the Bathtub.

Said Mr. Cox: “It was a naked, beautiful, private performance moment that was shared between guys who had made music together for 40 years – and an audience of 8,000 people.”

The moment was recorded by producer Derek Bird of CBC Radio. The corporation’s staff has a special connection to MusicFest, where one of the stages is named for the late David Grierson, an on-air host and festival emcee who died suddenly six years ago.

After his performance, Mr. Hayward exited stage left.

A cellphone photograph captured the moment as Mr. Hayward reached for his wife. Mr. Hayward’s eyes were closed, his mouth open in a smile. The look on his face can only be described as joyous.

“Richie was beaming,” his wife later wrote.

It was his final performance.

The drummer died of complications from pneumonia on Thursday morning at a hospital in Victoria. His wife held him as he passed. He was 64.

Source: © Copyright The Globe and Mail

Richie Hayward dies at 64; Little Feat drummer, founding member

August 14, 2010|By Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times

© Joephoto
© Joephoto

Richie Hayward, the drummer and a founding member of Little Feat, a celebrated rock band that arrived on the music scene in Los Angeles with its distinctively eclectic sound in the early 1970s, has died. He was 64.

For the record: The obituary of Little Feat drummer Richie Hayward in Saturday’s LATExtra section did not include a complete list of surviving family members. They are Hayward’s wife, Shauna Drayson-Hayward; his children, Scott, Kalin, Briony, Sydney, Rachell, Daniel, Natalie and Severn; his mother, Beatrice; his stepfather, Bob Johnson; his sister, Linda; his brother, Gary; and a granddaughter.

Hayward, who had liver cancer, died Thursday of complications from pneumonia in a hospital near Vancouver, Canada, said Bridget Nolan, a publicist for the band.

“He was a great drummer, and he was very much integral to Little Feat’s sound,” singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, who first met Hayward about 40 years ago, told The Times on Friday. “It’s hard to imagine another drummer making that music because it’s very inventive.”

Formed in 1969 — its original members including singer-songwriter and guitarist Lowell George, keyboardist Bill Payne, bassist Roy Estrada and Hayward — Little Feat became known for its mix of rock, country, blues, folk, jazz and funk.

The band’s self-titled 1971 debut album featured songs such as “Strawberry Flats,” “Willin’,” and “Hamburger Midnight.”

“Through its first five albums, Little Feat has been thought of as a cult band, as influential musicians’ musicians and as one of Warner Bros. Records’ ‘prestige acts,’ ” Richard Cromelin, former Times pop music writer, wrote in 1977.

“Critical praise has been lavish, particularly in England where the L.A.-based band is regularly hailed as the premier American group of the decade and major rock stars like Elton John proclaim its brilliance.”

And yet, Cromelin wrote, “the cash registers have been excruciatingly silent.”

The band, whose “Dixie Chicken” was one of their best-known songs, broke up after George died of a heart attack at age 34 while on a solo tour in 1979. But the band reformed in 1988.

“I never thought we’d get back together,” Hayward told the Intelligence Journal, a Lancaster, Pa., newspaper in 2004. “Everyone had gone their separate ways. It seemed like everybody was going to continue doing that. We were all doing OK, but we weren’t doing our own thing like we are now, which is much better. It’s what we all kind of secretly wanted.”

Hayward’s “deep, funky groove and vibrant rock ‘n’ roll energy” — as an online obituary in Modern Drummer put it — led to his playing drums on numerous recording sessions and live performances with artists such as Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Robert Palmer, Robert Plant and Bob Seger.

Born Feb. 6, 1946, in Clear Lake, Iowa, Hayward began playing drums as a child and moved to California at 19 in 1964. Two years later, he read an ad in the L.A. Free Press that said, “Drummer Wanted — Must Be Freaky” and joined Lowell George’s band called the Factory.

Hayward also played briefly with the Fraternity of Man before joining Little Feat.

“My style has grown with the band,” he said in a 1995 interview with Modern Drummer. “It started out heavily influenced by blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and jazz. Then it got more specific as I got into other kinds of American folk music and other roots music.

“I discovered New Orleans along the way, and that made a big difference — it loosened me up.”

A year ago, Hayward announced that he had been diagnosed with liver disease. His last public performance was on July 11, when he sat in with Little Feat at the Vancouver Island Music Fest.

“He’s really been a beacon to a whole generation of younger drummers,” said Browne, who performed with other musicians at one of the benefit concerts held to help pay for Hayward’s medical bills. “He was really loved; he will be missed.”

Hayward’s survivors include his wife, Shauna, and a son, Severin.

Source: © Copyright Los Angeles Times See also:
Little Feat Official Site
Drummerworld 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

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,

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

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

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
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

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

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

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,
DONATIONS to Norton Buffalo’s family can be made through

Source Copyright ©: The Mercury News

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

by Paul Liberatore

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.


“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 (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; follow him on Twitter at

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