Saturday, February 6, 2010

New York City Folk Musician Norris Ill

My father passed along word (from the Folk Alliance mailing list) that New York City old-time musician Norris has fallen ill:
Veteran African American folk singer, banjoist, guitarist, dulcimer player, Norris Bennett, a member of New York's Ebony Hillbillies has recently been hospitalized with heart, kidney, and other problems. For friends who want to visit him or send support, Norris Bennett is in,

Jamaica Hospital Medical Center
8955 134th Street
Richmond Hill NY 11418-2820
Room: # 404B
Phone:# 718-206-6416
I had the pleasure of having the Ebony Hillbillies on the Moonshine Show twice, and during their first appearance, I think, we spoke a bit about Norris's career. It has always been great to watch him pluck away at a mountain dulcimer as he howled out a tune. He is a true original.

My first encounter with Norris was actually a bit embarrassing. He was part of a songwriters circle or at least a session of musicians in the round at the Big Apple Bluegrass Festival one year. (I think it was the Big Apple Bluegrass Festival; it might have been one of the first Sheriff Sessions.) I knew most of the participants except for one on the schedule named Jeff. So I went up to the guy that I thought was Jeff and asked him how I should introduce him. He told me how he has been living in Belgium but was now back in the states, and I said, "Great! Thanks!" And I went up to the microphone and introduced the musicians that I knew and then gave a wham-bam-whiz-bang introduction to "Jeff." And then looked over at the aghast face of Paul Clements and the others, who said, "Matt! This is Norris!" Eeek. Horror. Mortification. Apparently Jeff had failed to show up, and Norris had offered to replace him in the circle.

And then the mistake lived on! During the song swap, Paul Clements at some point referred to someone as "Jeff." I suggested that we take the show on the road...

I'm glad that I got to know Norris well enough after that inauspicious first meeting to be able to say his name correctly and give him his due on the Moonshine Show. And I certainly hope that any friends or acquaintances of his out there reading this will do the same now.

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