Tony Norris

Storyteller, Folk Singer & Cowboy Historian of the Southwest 

If Garrison Keillor were raised on cornbread and beans… 

No western entertainer does it all with the warmth and wit of Tony Norris. Based in Flagstaff, Arizona, he is a regular at storytelling festivals, cowboy poetry gatherings, schools, campfires, and corporate conferences. Young and old alike are captivated by his homespun charm and rich tenor voice. With the accompaniment of his big Martin guitar and healthy doses of humor, he invites the adventurous spirit in each of us to leave the everyday world behind and journey into the old West. Performing solo or in an ensemble, his concerts are for those who want to hear the old songs, learn about the West, relax and have a good time. 

As folklorist, Tony brings to life the Appalachian, cowboy, and indigenous cultures of the Southwest on radio and in college settings, and conducts workshops in storytelling for adults.

In addition, he produces CD packages for those who want to preserve their personal memoirs and/or family histories. He can create CD masters from existing recordings or will interview and record informants in a location of their choice. 

What it can mean to loved ones— 

I had forgotten some of my Mom's stories about her life, the family, and me. While listening to the conversations with my Mom, I was so happy and grateful that I had recorded my Mom's history. Now, I can listen to the stories any time and feel the love my Mom and I have for each other. Tony has given me a wonderful gift. Through his art he has created an amazing keepsake for me. I am going to share the laughter, tears, joy and love with my whole family. I know they will enjoy "Vicky Preston :Conversations." Tony thank you so-so-so much for helping me in my greiving process. I will cherish the CD and share it with my children someday. Hopefully they will see and hear what a wonderful Grandma they have on the “other side”. — Niccie Preston 

Folklorist Tony Norris of famlyfolk studio will interview and record you or your loved one at a location of your choice or using recordings, music, or photos you already have, he will edit the recordings and produce a master ready for duplication additional services can include photography, creating graphics and duplication.

READ MORE ABOUT TONY NORRIS  or scroll down to listen to or buy my Album Open Heart.

For more information please email: tony@tonynorris.com or 520-491-0125

Open Heart

Tony Norris

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    Welcome and Introduction

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    The Cuckoo

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    Copper Kettle

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    Tear My Stillhouse Down

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    Springtime in Appalachia

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    Mountain Fields

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    Gene and Smiley

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    Ridin Down the Canyon

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    Romaine and the Archipelago

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    Leavin Cheyenne

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    Sister Shirley

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    Where the Bluebonnets Roll

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    Shady Grove

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    Fare the Well

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    Happy Trails

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A tradition of thankfullness

In about 1970 my mother, Alice KInser Norris, wrote some of her childhood memories out in a spiral bound school notebook.  I was just looking through it and I came across this reference to her family dealing with typhoid fever and the Spqnish flu. 

   "1918 was a very bad time – and some years that followed. World War I. We seldom had white bread, we made bread with rice flour, like little hard rocks. Not quite. But not good. Then we had what was called graham flour – made dark bread. Hard to get sugar or coffee. We did have plenty vegetables, milk and butter. That winter nearly everyone had the flu, and lots of people died. We all had it at one time. My Aunt Sally, Papa’s sister, a nurse, came and took care of us till all were well. I remember it so well – it was bad. When I was about 6 mo. old my oldest sister Lillian had typhoid fever. Papa put up a tent in the yard, and all the children had to stay out there till the danger was over. Even little Alice – I don’t remember it, but I was there."

   Thanksgiving has always been a time for my family to gather. We are struggling with not gathering this covid season. These are tough times but we will find better days. I'll share one of my childhood recollections with you..........

 

FRIENDS BEARING GIFTS; TALKING TURKEY 

 

    Our Royal Palm turkey tom and his hen were intended for the Thanksgiving table. Each afternoon as they were released with the chickens to free-range and eat bugs and weed seeds, they didn’t miss an opportunity to display their magnificent crisp formal white plumage tipped in fretted inky black. The tom jumped up on a bench to be at eye level with me. He pointed out that at best he would only reach 12 pounds at maturity. “If you’re going to feed a houseful you’ll need one of those center-fold bronze broad-breast turkeys!” he gobbled. I saw his point. I felt very presidential as I pardoned them on the grounds of their esthetic contribution to the holiday season. I’ve bought cars for less than their organic, church-going, hand-fed replacement cost. Sixteen souls joined us for turkey with cornbread stuffing, corn and oyster casserole, yeast rolls and … I was reminded of a Thanksgiving morning long ago. 

Jimmy took the Winchester pump .22 from the tiny room we called the library. The gun had an octagonal barrel and looked like the rifle in every cowboy show you ever saw. Jimmy knew how to shoot it. 

The early morning shadows made charcoal silhouettes of the bare pecan trees. I followed my brother through two bob-wire fences and across a rustling sea of dead Johnson grass. The honeyed light made me think of a song I’d heard on the radio. I began to sing. “Oh what a beautiful morning…” Jimmy shushed me before I got to the line about the little brown maverick winking its eye. 

The short grass prairie rose toward a small limestone hill. The first of several black-tailed jack rabbits exploded into a crazy zigzag lope—dodging mesquite bushes and clearing 4-foot clumps of prickly pear cactus in graceful arcs. 

Jimmy raised the rifle and steadily followed the fleeing form. He fired, and I watched the rabbit cartwheel and come up wobbly but still running. The rifle cracked again and the rabbit skidded to a stop. Like an eager dog, I feinted at bull nettle and fresh cowpies—my bare feet lifted high to retrieve the game. The 2-foot body was hot and the black stippled fur was sticky with blood. When my arms were full Jimmy turned toward home. 

The woodstove glowed as we stepped into the kitchen. Mama bent forward and peered into the firebox, one hand gathered her loose skirts as the other poked at the fire with a metal rod. An oval granite roaster filled with pinto beans roiled in a red boil on the front burner. A pan of purple turnips and their dark greens from her garden simmered on the back of the stove. In the oven two black cast-iron skillets of cornbread sent up little wisps of steam. The meal had been ground from our own corn on the stone grist mill that Daddy powered from the PTO of the tractor. 

Jimmy brought in the quartered rabbit pieces and Mama washed them, salt, peppered and dusted them with flour. She began to fry rabbit in a big skillet until a platter was piled high with browned pieces. She sprinkled flour from her hand into the skillet and then poured milk. She hummed as she stirred the gravy. 

Old Rowdy was barking his “people” bark in the front yard. I looked out to see Aunt Dela and Uncle J E pull up in their station wagon. Odela was Daddy’s baby sister. J E managed a typewriter supply company and they lived pretty well off on a little ranch nearby. She had no children but a Chihuahua she called Baby. The dog had a chair with a cushion at the table and she would fry chicken livers for it. 

“Alice I had an extra turkey so I brought it over for you and the family,” Aunt Dela said. She told my brother Tommy to get the turkey from the back of the station wagon. “There’s dressing and some rolls and a pecan pie too,” she said. At the table I looked from golden turkey to fried rabbit and sighed. 

At the end of the day I don’t remember if there was any rabbit left on the platter. I do remember that Mama had fried the hell out of the meat. I’m still grateful for the bounty of our red-clay garden—and all the fresh meat my brother Jimmy provided for the table when I was growing up. And I’m thankful for Aunt Dela’s surprise turkey.