Drummer James “Bubba” Norwood’s credentials are among the brightest of any Music Maker artist. Known mostly for his long-time association with Ike and Tina Turner, James has anchored the rhythm section for a “who’s who” of blues, soul, and R&B greats.
How We Helped:
Music Maker welcomed James “Bubba” Norwood as one of its artists in 2009, since which time James has performed 15-20 times per year with a wide range of Music Maker artists around North Carolina. Some of his gigs have included Warehouse Blues and the Havelock Blues Festival in N.C., and Capitol Blues Night in Washington, D.C.
He graduated from Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s Lincoln High School in 1961. Doug Clark of the famed Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts introduced him to Ike Turner later that year and James went on to play for the Ike and Tina Turner Revue until 1969. “Ike taught me how to be a power drummer, a driving drummer and how to play with a well put-together show,” he says. Along with the Revue’s solo shows, Ike and his Kings of Rhythm served as the house band at such major theaters as the Howard in Washington, D.C.; the Uptown in Philadelphia; the Apollo in New York; the Regal in Chicago; and the Royal in Baltimore. In this capacity James played with Archie Bell and the Drells, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, and Little Anthony and the Imperials.
After their stint with Ike Turner, most of the Rhythm Kings formed a band in L.A. called Sam and the Goodtimers. They played with Little Richard and even did a national tour with the Monkees in 1969. In his book Hit Me, Fred, trombonist Fred Wesley, who later become James Brown’s band leader, describes James’ playing with the Sam and the Goodtimers. Wesley, who played with Norwood with Ike Turner when both were in their teens, writes of a gig when the band played Otis Reddings’ “I Can’t Turn You Loose”: “The vamp was strictly a Sam and the Goodtimers original. I had forgotten what a strong, solid, funky drummer James was. You know how fast the record is. Well, James took that straight, fast beat from the record, accented it here and there, and started a whole new thing…the Goodtimers were linked spiritually to by some intangible energy that flowed among the players and out to the audience.” James remembers a Dallas gig with Marvin Gaye in 1970 or’71 and a stint with the Friends of Distinction later in that decade. He toured Europe and Scandinavia with blues great Albert King in the 1980’s. After a return to North Carolina in the early ‘80’s, he played with several local units.
James plays drums every Sunday at the First Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, occasionally with the Phabulous Phunk Phamily, and sometimes with fellow Music Maker artist and singer/guitarist Harvey Arnold. He has backed such Music Maker artists as John Dee Holeman, Cool John Ferguson, Beverly Watkins, and Captain Luke, and has been an instructor for a number of younger players. Several airings of “The Funk Show” on radio WNCU (90.7) have been devoted to interviews with James.
James Norwood says of his drumming, “I know more now – I’ve grown a lot,” and that he is playing as well as he ever has. He says is proud to be associated with Music Maker and looks forward to being seen and heard by Music Maker audiences.
– Written by Peter Kramer