Sunday, November 01, 2009

Norton Buffalo (1951-2009)

From the Midnight Blues Society on Facebook :

"It is with a heavy heart to report that Norton Buffalo passed away today, 10/30/09....he was a good human being, with a great musical talent and a big heart...more information about his memorial and this benefit will be forthcoming, for now, our thoughts are for his peace...and his wife and family...R.I.P. Norton"

At Norton's request the benefit will feature. . . Big Mo and Friends, Carlos Reyes and Friends, Tom Rigney and Flambeau and Roy Rogers and The Delta Rhythm Kings. $40 General Admission. Call Bill Anderson toll free 1-877-397-3363 10am to 10pm or send check payable to PPAC c/o Bill Anderson, 6848U Skyway, Paradise CA 95969. Stay at Ponderosa Gardens Motel, 7010 Skyway. Reservations: 1-888-727-3423. They are donating ten rooms for performers!

Norton Buffalo, one of the multi-talented and brilliant harmonica players and well-known singer and songwriter died after battling with lung cancer on October 30, 2009. Norton Buffalo was famous for his strong and expressive performance in harmonium as well regarded as a distinguished and remarkable songwriter, singer, producer and engineer. He was 57 years old at the time of his death.

He was suffering from pneumonia and stage four lung cancer. This brutal stage of cancer had spread to his brain. He had trouble breathing and as he got himself checked, it was diagnosed that he has severe lung cancer.

Oakland born Buffalo started his career from very early age under the guidance of his father, who was also a harmonica player. During his high school education, he performed in a number of bands. In the early 1970s he got fame as a popular San Francisco Bay Area musician and singer. He started playing with different musical groups as Elvin Bis, Clover, and The Moonlighters.

He also performed in numerous films. He gave his appearance for a cameo role in a rock movie, “The Rose” in which he was accompanied by Bette Midler, he played the role harmonica player. “Heaven’s Gate” was his second movie in which he again used to play a cameo role.

He was much an endowed artist and his death is a big loss for music. In 1978, he won a Grammy for his performance as harmonica player at a track of “The Doobie Brothers”

From Norton's own words:

"When I arrived home from Boston, on Sunday night, I was so happy to be home. Our home in Paradise is so beautiful right now with Lisa’s garden going strong and so much wonderful food to eat off our property. Unfortunately, later that evening, I started having some serious coughing spasms that went on for hours. My wife wanted me to go to the hospital that night and I refused. I wanted to relish my first night at home.

First thing Monday morning, Lisa called a local pulmonary specialist and he recommended that I go check into the hospital ER. We headed to the hospital and I am now about to begin my third day here. My pneumonia had gotten worse and there were signs that it was not your average, easy to kill kinda funk. I’ve been poked prodded and had a load of diagnostic tests and procedures. Without going into all the details, lets just say that the doctors have confirmed what I knew all along. I am seriously ill and need to let them use their big guns to get through this bug and onward to good health.

OK, so I thought that pneumonia was a bad bug… but, YIKES! ... Last Wednesday night (Sept 2), I got the word from my doctor, that I had cancer in my lower right lung which has spread around a bit. Technically speaking it’s considered a Stage 4 Adenocarcinoma of the lower right lobe. Thursday I got the results from my MRI, that it is in my brain as well.

So Lisa and I headed up to Montana to see an old friend of hers who is an amazing healer, J.C. Hugh MacKimmie. You can find out more about Doc MacKimmie, or order a book about his life through this site Presence of Angels • A Healer’s Life.

Doc MacKimmie has been working on me for the past couple days and it is amazing to feel the transformation that is happening in my body. I wanted to do this before the Western doctors began trying to pummel my devine body with toxic chemicals and radiation. I am already seeing that my body can change the reality it is facing today and become whole again. I will take this all one day at a time. I feel truly blessed!!!

I am putting all of my energy into healing my body, focusing all of my spirit on divine beauty, love and positive thinking. I, with the grace of God, will rise above and get through this. I am having to take time out for Norton… (something I have not been very good at over the years), and learning the lessons that this twist in the road has to teach me. I truly believe that I will heal. I am not alone. 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.

Thank you all for your support. I will be setting up a page here on my website that keeps me up to date and allows you to comment. ... meanwhile feel free to drop me a note at the ’‘Fan Club E-Mail” link above. ... I receive all of those letters and would love to hear from you."

Norton actually called me from Montreal, (we talked for almost a half hour), to inform me that he had walking pneumonia, and promised he would "rest up" when he returned from his last gig with Miller in Boston. Norton also told me that while the rest of the crew knew he had been "under the weather", "Miller was the only one that didn't know" (and he chuckled that the secret was kept from Miller).

I was the backstage talent coordinator for this years Blues by the Bay. Norton was scheduled to play Saturday afternoon on Sept. 5th, and I had left a message on his private cell to call me back to finalize some travel arrangements. What a surprise when my cell rang and there on the phone display was the name "Norton Buffalo". After we took care of the "business" part of the conversation, (where Norton informed me of his coughing spells and promised me he would rest up when he got home to Paradise), we then proceeded to talk about all sorts of things---about how much the music industry had change since the seventies, playing throughout the Bay Area with the talent like the Doobie Bros and later with Steve Miller. At some point in our conversation, I told Norton that I had been playing blues harps for more than thirty years and "still sounded like crap", and although playing in front of friends locally, I never thought about performing in front of a crowd. Norton then said, "Kenny, if you liked the sound, who gives a shit what anyone else thinks--you play to your passions first". It was quite inspirational to hear this coming from one of the greatest Harp players to ever grace this planet. We talked some more and then Norton said, "shit Kenny, I bet this call is costing me over 30 cents a minute from up here in Montreal, so I'll give ya a call when I get home and I'll look forward to seeing you when I get to Eureka". Little did either of us know, (at the time), this would be our last conversation. Thank you Norton, for sharing those thirty minutes of your life with me while we became friends. I can't help but think he made thousands of friends this way throughout his shortened life. That's just the way he was. Rest in peace, my friend.

Update: The Doobie Brothers have a tribute up at their site.

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