British bluesman Norman Beaker, born Norman Hume in Longsight Manchester in 1950, has lived in Heaton Moor for the past 30 years and is one of the very few musicians who can claim to have played a leading role in creating the British blues scene.
This set the stage for his later work, playing and recording with a “Who’s Who of Blues” from both sides of the Atlantic – such as Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Jimmy Rogers, Peter Green, Jack Bruce, Eric Burdon, Lowell Fulson, Van Morrison, Fenton Robinson, Carey Bell, Lurrie Bell, John Lord, James Booker, Mick Abrahams, Ruby Turner, Madeline Bell, Robert Plant, Paul Jones, Tony Ashton, Larry Garner, Chris Farlowe, and so many others. B.B. King described Norman as “like a white Freddie King”, a compliment indeed! But though he’s sometimes likened to Mr King, and Peter Green, the source of Norman’s art is the wellspring of his own life and genius.
And yet, despite his distinguished history, Norman has always stayed out of the spotlight. The ultimate paradox of the blues is that many of the genres most genuine musicians aren’t well known, simply because they personify the unpretentious and selfless spirit of the music itself. Though Mr Beaker has never acquired a big name himself, he’s one that the most famous blues artists trust, being as hardworking, humourous and good-natured as he is talented. His abilities as a superb frontman, as well as his excellence as a backing musician, is testimony to his integrity in serving the music rather than himself.
Though Norman plays his homeland regularly, he’s often touring from worldwide – from Sweden to Belgium to Germany to the Balkans – and everywhere in between, sharing the classic blues of his birthplace and earning a loyal following wherever he plays. Sadly, original British blues, as it was forged in its early days, has become obscured by later trends in popular music. With rare exception, those first to blend the sound of the Delta and Chicago with the musical traditions of the UK are now known mainly to aficionados. And as each year goes by, there are fewer of those around who created great art from hardship in a remarkable place and time. Those who work to keep it alive are worthy of the greatest respect.
If the heart of blues combines great talent and skill with the authority to console, Norman Hume Beaker is the genre’s most dedicated acolyte.