On This Day #41 – Nancy Blake

Nancy BlakeOn this Day …..

On June 11, 1952 Nancy Ann Blake (nee Short) was born in Independence, Missouri.

She took up cello at the age of 12 and moved to Nashville, where she played the instrument with the Nashville Youth Symphony.

In 1972 Short and her band Natchez Trace opened a show for Norman Blake, a virtuoso picker who had performed with such notables as Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. The performance led to a musical partnership (in 1974), which in turn led to marriage (in 1975).

In due course, Nancy Blake added the fiddle, acoustic guitar, bass and the accordion to the list of instruments that she could play.

From 1974 through to 1977 Norman Blake, with Nancy often assisting although never given equal billing (she is pictured on the Live at McCabe’s LP, Takoma Records, released in 1976), recorded for Flying Fish Records, releasing three solo albums.

During the 1980s they recorded for Rounder Records, with Nancy Blake playing mando-cello or fiddle on various tracks.

In 1986 Nancy Blake’s first solo recording, Grand Junction, was released on the Rounder label.

Nancy and Norman BlakeThroughout the 1990s she helped Norman Blake to record the Grammy-nominated releases Just Gimme Somethin’ I’m Used To (in 1993) and Hobo’s Last Ride (1996).

In 2001 Nancy Blake performed with her husband at the landmark O Brother Where Art Thou concert at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall.

Four years later Dualtone released the duo’s Back Home in Sulphur Springs CD while, in 2007, the same label released the album Shacktown Road on which the duo were joined by the late Tut Taylor.

In recent years the couple have retired to their north Georgia home although Nancy Blake makes a vocal contribution to two Norman Blake solo albums.

Some performances by the duo have been captured on DVD, the latest of which is My Dear Old Southern Home (Shanachie, released in 2003).

Here Nancy Blake sings The Storms Are on the Ocean from the soundtrack of Inside Llewyn Davis, the 2013 film in which she also appears.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.