Norman Blake, born March 10, 1938 in Chattanooga, TN, grew up in Sulphur Springs and Rising Fawn, GA. He quit school at the age of 16 to play mandolin in a band, and music has been the focus of his life ever since.
His first band, The Dixie Drifters, played the Tennessee Barndance on KNOX Radio in Knoxville, TN. Later, they went to WDOD Radio, and from there to WROM-TV in Rome, GA where they stayed until 1956. Norman then worked with banjoist Bob Johnson as The Lonesome Travelers. They joined with Walter Forbes in making two records for RCA. In 1959, Norman left those groups to go with Hylo Brown and the Timberliners, although he continued as a duet with Bob Johnson in making several guest appearances on WSM's Grand Ole Opry.
At that time, Norman was drafted and stationed in the Panama Canal as a radio operator. There he formed the Fort Kobbe Mountaineers, a bluegrass band in which Norman played the fiddle and mandolin. They were voted Best Instrumental Group of the Caribbean Command, with Norman voted Best Instrumentalist.
Upon returning to the United States, Norman taught guitar to as many as 150 students weekly, and played the fiddle in a country and western dance band three and four nights a week. He also made frequent trips to Nashville to play sessions and, for a time, played as a member of June Carter's road group.
In 1969, Norman moved to Nashville to do the Johnny Cash Summer TV show, in which he played the guitar and dobro as a member of Cash's group. Along with country and western sessions, Norman recorded with Bob Dylan on The Nashville Skyline album. He was a member of Kris Kristofferson's first road group, playing guitar and dobro, and did a seasonal tour with Joan Baez, playing mandolin, guitar, and dobro; Norman recorded with both groups. He left Kristofferson to join and record with John Hartford's Aeroplane Band. After that band dissolved, Norman toured with John Hartford as his accompanist for 1 1/2 years, during which time he recorded his first solo album, Home in Sulphur Springs. He also received a gold record for his participation on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's legendary, Will the Circle be Unbroken album. After a nine-month tour with the Red, White and Blue(grass), he left to go back on his own where he has been ever since.
In the ensuing years, Norman and his wife Nancy Blake have toured extensively, playing to larger and more dedicated audiences. Again, Frets Magazine Readers Poll Awards voted Norman first place, this time in the category of Best Multi-Instrumentalist of 1986. In 1989, the Blakes received Grammy nominations for "Best Traditional Folk Recording of the Year" on their duet record, Blind Dog, and again in 1992 in the same category for their Shanachie debut Just Gimme Something I'm Used To.
A San Francisco Examiner music critic wrote, "What Blake does is important, of course - but the glory of his string sounds, the Tennessee-Georgia twangy drawl of his vocals and the awesome blend of the Blakes' instruments produces an American music of incomparable purity and integrity."