by Dan Bolles
Burlington Western swing songwriter Rick Norcross is capping 50 years in the music biz in style. Yesterday, he announced that his band, Rick & the All Star Ramblers, have been named as finalists for the "Best Western Swing Duo or Group" award by the Academy of Western Artists, an organization based in — get this — Gene Autry, Okla.
The AWA's stated mission is to "recognize and honor outstanding individuals who, through their accomplishments, preserve and perpetuate the traditions, values and heritage of the American cowboy." We're biased, but we'd say Rick Norcross qualifies.
Last year, Norcross celebrated a half-century of rambling by releasing and touring behind a biography penned by Vermont author Stephen Russell Payne and an accompanying album, both dubbed Riding My Guitar. The album, which we reviewed last August, has been garnering airplay around the world and serves as a fitting restrospective of the man's fascinating career.
BTW, said fascinating career includes palling around the London folk scene in the 1960s with "some guy named Paul Simon"; working as a rock journalist and photog for the Tampa Bay Times, where he covered the likes of Janis Joplin and Led Zepplin; and then later as a professional songwriter himself. And that's to say nothing of the museum-worthy stash of American Western culture memorabilia and ephemera that crowds his eclectic Burlington apartment. The place is like a Western Music Hall of Fame in its own right.
Norcross is up against some stiff competition, including Al Dressen's Super Swing Revue from Austin, the Tulsa Playboys, Vince Gill's the Time Jumpers from Nashville and a Candian entrant, the Western Swing Authority from Waterloo, Ont. But, as the cliché goes, win or lose, it's honor to be nominated. And we expect Norcross to keep rambling no matter the outcome. The only real question is whether he'll be taking his famous green 1957 Starliner tour bus, the Pickle, to the awards ceremony in Dallas next month.