It was in the late ‘80s, and as usual, the Stone Pony was packed. On stage was a skinny, grimacing guitar player, clad in a funny hat and boxer shorts covered with hearts. It was Norman Nardini, the Pittsburgh native who came to New Jersey and soon became a mainstay in the shore rock and roll scene.
Norman Nardini and the Tigers first showed up at the Fastlane in Asbury Park in 1980. “I had a friend in New York who knew the guy who booked the Fastlane,” explains Norman. “He showed him a picture of me looking crazy.” The first night the band played at the club, it was opening up for a local up and coming band, The Rest.
“We crushed,” says Norman. “At the halfway point, I went down to the dressing room, and the singer from the other band looked sick. I asked him how he was doing, and he said, after watching me, he didn’t want to go on stage.” The singer was none other than Jon Bon Jovi, “He had never seen the uncrowned king,” laughs Norman.
The young Jon was obviously impressed with Norman and his band, as he invited them back to his house, where they had dinner and hung out with Jon’s family. “I think Jon was still a senior in high school,” remembers Norman.
A lot of record labels were out to see The Rest, and soon started following Norman.
About a year-and-a-half later, the group was signed to CBS Records. Norman also signed to the same manager as Stevie Ray Vaughan. “It all happened so fast,” says Norman. “I didn’t realize anybody could become a star. Nobody ever got deals from Pittsburgh. I didn’t think it could happen.”
The band did two albums fro CBS. “I made the mistake of letting someone else produce my music, recalls Norman. The albums were, in Norman’s own words, “Pretty poor. I was overwhelmed by being on a major label,” he says.
After the demise of the deal and the band, Norman decided to become just Norman Nardini. “I made the decision that I was not playing guitar well enough, and not singing well enough, so I would take the next period to study.” While he has done three albums for the independent label Circumstantial Records, he feels he is just nearing the end of his learning period now, and ready to step back up with a major new album.
The other members of Norman Nardini and the Tigers all went in separate directions. Guitarist Paul Shook moved to Los Angeles for eight years, before recently returning to Pittsburgh. He continues to play, and is looking for the right musicians to team up with. Bass player Ray Gunn took off for Florida, and hasn’t been seen since. Keyboard player Nason Gieg unfortunately passed away in 1992. Drummer Whitey Cooper is still, to this day, the drummer in Norman’s band.
Recent years have often brought Norman to clubs such as the Metro in Long Branch. (I can personally attest to some of the all-night parties that took place upstairs after the shows!) While he is working on building a studio in Pittsburgh, he should still be coming to New Jersey periodically. So be on the lookout for the return of Norman to the area. If you know Stormin’ Norman, you know he’s still got a lot of music to make.
Copyright © Hal B. Selzer/The Aquarian/East Coast Rocker and transcribed with permission.