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Chuck Norris

Learn karate, and people will be attempting to pick fights with you the rest of your life. One could only imagine the problems for a guitar player named Chuck Norris, even if he didn't know a lick of martial arts. But the guitar-playing Norris, an excellent West Coast session man who helped forge the link between blues and soul music, was around for nearly three decades before the martial arts instructor Norris took the advice of his student Steve McQueen and went into the movie business. So if the guitarist was subjected to any kung-phooey humor it would have happened only late in his life. When he was cutting records on his own as well as with a series of blues, rock & roll, rhythm & blues, and jazz stars, only a consumer who could see into the future would have asked "Is that the karate guy?"

Considered a prototype West Coast bluesman, Norris was actually a Midwesterner. He was born in the blues- and jazz-heavy town of Kansas City and raised in the equally musical metropolis of Chicago. Listeners who have heard his guitar playing in any context would not be surprised to learn that he was a student of the famed Chicago music instructor Captain Walter Dyett, a man who was involved in the formative training of many Chicago-area jazz musicians. Norris was much more than just a funky string bender. He could play subtle rhythmic accompaniment in the style of a jazz guitarist such as Oscar Moore, then turn around and wail out front and high above the band like a Peewee Crayton or Johnny "Guitar" Watson.

He studied and worked in Chicago until the mid-'40s, when he moved out to the West Coast following a failed marriage. Truthfully feeling the blues, he gigged at night and mined the recording studios for session gold during the days. He soon became one of the most-called musicians in Hollywood. From time to time he did sessions on his own, including a single for Atlantic. The best-known Norris tracks include titles such as "Messin' Around," "Kinda Sick, Mostly Worried," and the philosophical "What's Good for One's Good for All." Some of the guitarist's best playing was on records by brilliant black performers who were in the process of extending the blues into innovative realms, creating brand new genres in the process. One such artist was the great Percy Mayfield, who recorded original classics such as the grueling "Two Years of Torture" with band backing that combined Norris with musicians such as saxophonists Marshall Royal and Maxwell Davis. Although not as well-known as Mayfield, pianist and singer Floyd Dixon was another blues talent that recorded on the West Coast in the early '50s, putting the guitar sound of Norris into the spotlight for tracks such as "Come Back Baby," "I'll Be Lonely," "People Like Me," and especially the rocking instrumental "Shuffle Boogie."

Many of the great West Coast players were aligned at one time or another with Johnny Otis, a drummer and bandleader whose groups were something like junior colleges for sidemen, Norris included. Guitar nuts can drool over the Otis band that featured not only Norris but the amazing Johnny "Guitar" Watson as well. Some of the sides cut by this lineup are included on the Otis collection on the Charly label entitled Let's Live It Up. Norris also worked with artists such as Amos Milburn, Dinah Washington, and Little Richard.

Although confusion between the guitarist and the karate king was avoided in the old days, the later career of the martial arts star has shown worrisome tendencies toward musical projects, perhaps predicting a time in the future when the career's of the two men will become hopelessly entangled. Around the time of the Gulf War, the superstar Norris premiered the Chuck Norris Orchestra, dedicated to playing a mix of patriotic music and "hardcore covers." The actor has also been involved in performing theme songs on his Walker, Texas Ranger series. It's a good thing he knows karate, because nothing he has done comes close to the musical power of his guitar-playing namesake. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Electric Blues - Part 1: Beginnings 1939-1954

Disc 1

1. Floyd's Guitar Blues

2. Mean Old World

3. Strange Things Happening Every Day

4. Drifting Blues

5. Ain't That Just Like A Woman

6. That's All Right

7. Let Me Play With Your Poodle

8. Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad)

9. Better Cut That Out

11. I Can't Be Satisfied

12. Boogie Chillen

13. Blues After Hours

14. Mary Is Fine

15. Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee

16. Hit The Road

17. Who's Been Jivin' You

19. My Special Friend Blues

20. Every Day I Have The Blues (Lonely Heart Blues)

21. Rock Awhile

22. Bon Ton Roula

23. Rollin' And Tumblin' Part 1

25. Rockin' All Day (Aka Rockin' And Reelin')

26. Love Don't Love Nobody

Disc 2

1. That's All Right

2. Midnight Boogie

3. Black Night

4. Rock Little Baby

5. Why Should I Cry?

6. Rocket '88'

7. How Many More Years?

8. Boogie Woogie Nighthawk

9. Baby Let's Go Down To The Woods

10. Kansas City Blues

12. Dust My Broom

13. I'm In The Mood

14. Cold Cold Feeling

15. Ramblin' On My Mind

17. Trust In Me

18. Juke

19. Me And My Chauffeur Blues

20. Five Long Years

21. Lonesome Train

22. Hound Dog

23. Chocolate Pork Chop Man

24. Woke Up This Morning

26. Cryin' Shame

Disc 3

2. Please Love Me

3. Forty Cups Of Coffee

4. Ice Cream Man

5. Losing Hand

6. Hydramatic Woman

7. Feelin' Good

8. One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer

9. Tiger Man

10. Blues With A Feeling

11. Piggly Wiggly

12. TV Mama

13. The Things That I Used To Do

14. Shim Sham Shimmy

15. Dirty Work At The Crossroad

16. You Don't Have To Go

17. I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man

18. Sloppy Drunk

19. Shake That Thing

20. Wine, Women, Whiskey

22. Pet Cream Man

23. Reconsider Baby

24. Don't Have To Worry

25. The Boogie Disease

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Track List: Los Angeles Rhythm & Blues 1944-1954

Disc 1

3. Drifting Blues

6. When I'm In My Tea

8. Guitar In My Hand

10. Mississippi Blues

11. Chicken Shack Boogie

13. Woman Don't Want A Good Man No More

16. B&O Blues

17. When A Man Has The Blues

20. Everyday I Have The Blues

21. Lonely Boy Blues

22. Beer Drinking Baby

23. Wine O Baby Boogie

24. Bad Bad Whiskey

25. Great Big Mama

Disc 2

2. Black Night

3. The Hustle Is On

5. Safronia B

7. I Got Loaded

8. When It Rains It Pours

9. Kissa Me Baby

11. High School Baby

12. Daybreak

13. Let Me Go Home Whiskey

14. West Coast Blues

15. The Candles Burning Low

18. Unlucky Man

19. Good Good Whiskey

21. Feelin' Mighty Lonesome

23. Yeah Yeah Yeah

24. I Ain't Drunk

25. No More Alcohol

x

Track List: Remaster Of The Universe

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