Most excellent harmonica player Norton Buffalo succumbed to cancer Friday night. He was 58.
Buffalo was a musician’s musician, the go-to man whenever a band or artist needed harmonica done right. He played on more than 180 albums and appeared on tracks by just about everyone at one time or another, including The Doobie Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Elvin Bishop and Commander Cody. He also spent 33 years with the Steve Miller Band, was a member of Mickey Hart’s High Noon band and played with Merl Saunders in the keyboardist’s Rainforest Band.
Buffalo also made several movie appearances, including a cameo as a band member in Bette Midler’s “The Rose” and an appearance in Michael Cimino’s ill-fated 1979 flick, “Heaven’s Gate.”
Norton was diagnosed in September with Adenocarcinoma, a cancer that usually originates in glandular tissue, but in his case, had spread quickly to his brain. Norton died Oct. 30 near his home in Paradise, California, at Feather River Hospital.
“He was the antithesis of East Coast cynical,” Bonnie Raitt told the San Francisco Chronicle. “He was always in funny mode without being too gooey about it. He’s been that guy all this time. In one guy, you got all the hope and optimism of the ‘70s.”
Buffalo is survived by his wife Lisa Flores, two children, two stepchildren, five brothers and sisters and his father.
At this time there are two concerts planned to celebrate Norton Buffalo’s life. The Steve Miller Band and The Doobie Brothers are headlining an event scheduled for the Fox Theatre in Oakland Jan. 23. Special guests include Raitt as well as Huey Lewis, George Thorogood and Charlie Musslewhite.
Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings, along with Tom Rigney and Flambeau and the Carlos Reyes Band will salute Buffalo Nov. 22 at the Paradise Performing Arts Center in Paradise, Calif.
For more information on the world of Norton Buffalo, please click here for late artist’s website.
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