Singer and harp man, Sugar Ray Norcia, kicked into high gear in 1979 when he formed the original Sugar Ray & the Bluetones with guitar giant Ronnie Earl, and he's stayed there ever since.
Norcia has appeared on over 50 albums including discs with the Bluetones, Ronnie Earl, Roomful of Blues, Otis Grand, Ann Peebles, Michelle Willson, Sax Gordon, Duke Robillard, Mark Hummel and his 1999 "Best Traditional Blues" Grammy nominated collaboration with fellow harmonica virtuosos James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite and Billy Branch called Superharps.
In the 1990s Norcia spent seven high-profile years with the legendary Roomful of Blues. He cut five albums with the group including 1996's Turn it On, Turn it Up, which also received a Best Traditional Blues Grammy nod.
Norcia's voice is one of the most distinctive, well-defined and recognizable instruments in modern blues.
He continues to tour the world with his durable Bluetones and make acclaimed albums such as, My Life, My Friends, My Music, which drew Blues Music Award nominations for "Album of the Year," "Instrumentalist — Harmonica," " Instrumentalist — Bass" and "Song of the Year" (for "Last Words of a Fool").
Norcia's 2012 release entitled, "Evening" was nominated for five Blues Music Awards including “Album of the Year”, “Band of the Year”, “Traditional Blues Album”, “Instrumentalist- Harmonica” and “Instrumentalist- Bass”
In 2014 Norcia was nominated for a Grammy Award for his contribution on an album entitled “Remembering Little Walter” on Blind Pig Records. This same recording has been nominated for two 2014 Blues Music Awards including “Album of the Year” and “Traditional Blues Album.”
Examiner spoke with Norcia to find out more.
Examiner: Tell me something about yourself that you've never told anyone before?
Norcia: "I think you may have stumped me on this one! Maybe it's when people tell me it must be so wonderful do go through life doing something that you love. That's partly true but what really makes me the happiest is when I am home with my family. My music demands that I travel a lot so it's a constant "tug of war" between leaving home to go make a living and wanting to stay home and tend to my beautiful garden!"
Examiner: Who or what inspired you to get in to the music business?
Norcia: "I was brought up in a musical family. My two uncles and my brother had a band that rehearsed in the basement of our house. I would sneak downstairs the next day and fool around with the instruments that they left there. My Dad who was a music teacher in the public schools and was very supportive when I started singing and playing in bands."
Examiner: What kind of music do you listen to when you're driving your car?
Norcia: "I either listen to real traditional blues or old time country music from the 1950's or eariler. Sometimes I listen to traditional Hawaiian music. If it's just the radio then sadly I don't hear anything that interests me but classical music or NPR news."
Examiner: Are you working on any new recordings?
Norcia: "Yes, we have just completed a new album on the Severn Record label. It doesn't have a title yet but should be released sometime this year (2014)."
Examiner: Have you won any awards for your music?
Norcia: "Well, they are just nominations but good ones. I have three Grammy nominations and nine Blues Music Award nominations. I was also inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame in 2012."
Examiner: Who are some of the famous recording artists that you have worked with or opened for?
Norcia: "Most of the great artists I have played with may not be household names but to me they are heros. People like Jimmie Rogers, Hubert Sumlin, Roosevelt Sykes, Big Walter Horton, Buddy Guy, Jr. Wells and many others. We have opened for people like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Robert Cray, Los Lobos."
Examiner: Upcoming dates?
Norcia: "We leave for a month long European tour on March 11, 2014. Some of the places we will be playing are France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark. We are always treated so well in Europe and people are so receptive to what we do."