Norman & Nancy Blake
May 31st, 1975
Norman Blake was born in 1938 on a farm near the Georgia-Alabama line. He dropped out of school at 16 to play in bluegrass bands, made it to the Grand Ole Opry in his early 20s, then was drafted into the Army. Fresh out of the service, he ran into Johnny Cash at a recording session in Chattanooga. Cash hired him on the spot and Blake accompanied Cash for decades. Aside from his solo career and his work with Nancy Blake and The Rising String Fawn Ensemble, he has worked with such luminaries as Tony Rice, Steve Earle, Kris Kristofferson, Ralph Stanley, Joan Baez, and Robert Plant-Alison Krauss. Blake played guitar on Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skylinein 1968, one of the founding albums of country-rock; on John Hartford’s Aereo-Plainin 1971, which marked the beginning of Newgrass; and on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbrokenin 1972. Through 38 recordings and countless collaborations, Norman Blake embodies the best traditions of American music.
Nancy Ann Blake (nee Short) was born on June 11, 1952 in Independence, Missouri. She took up cello at the age of 12 and moved to Nashville, where she played the instrument with the Nashville Youth Symphony. In 1972 Short and her band Natchez Trace opened a show for Norman Blake, a virtuoso picker who had performed with such notables as Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. The performance led to a musical partnership (in 1974), which in turn led to marriage (in 1975). In due course, Nancy Blake added the fiddle, acoustic guitar, bass and the accordion to the list of instruments that she could play. Throughout the 1990s she helped Norman Blake to record the Grammy-nominated releases Just Gimme Somethin’ I’m Used To(in 1993) and Hobo’s Last Ride(1996). In 2001 Nancy Blake performed with her husband at the landmark O Brother Where Art Thou concert at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall. In recent years the couple have retired to their north Georgia home although Nancy Blake makes a vocal contribution to two Norman Blake solo albums.