“I was not born a poor black child.”
The misfortunes of birth proved to be a life-long challenge for blues guitarist Lightinin’ Mark Norton. Cutting his teeth with early tribal blues players like Big Cotton
Johnson, Little Willy Jackson, and Swamp Water Jefferson, his big break came when asked to fill in for an ailing Left-Foot Washington in Sonny Bug Splat William’s touring group. It only took that one night of wailing, screaming blues playing to impress Bug Splat enough to invite Lightnin’ into the group until old Left-Foot, who was Bug Splat’s best friend, could rejoin the tour.
A single turn of events changed Lightnin’s life forever. Three weeks into the Delta Swamp tour, Bug Splat got news that his wife Delorina was fixing to divorce him and shack up with another. This was enough to shake Bug Splat to the ground. Further news came a day later when Bug Splat found out Left-Foot was the one that did him wrong. That put poor Bug Splat down inside a bottle of Old Grandad for three days. When he finally sobered up, he up and left for Baton Rouge to have it out with is old friend and the woman. That was the last anyone had heard of either Delorina or Left-Foot. Both were found in a New Orleans bus station shot in the back and Bug Splat ended up doing a nickel on the Angola work farm for manslaughter.
Faced with a contractual situation, the remaining members of the group soldered on, but the soul of the group was lost with Bug Splat’s untimely departure. The band broke up after the third gig, contract or no. Lightnin’ took the remaining front money, bought a clapped-out BSA and rode as fast and as far away as he could. He played pick-up gigs and did singles (and a few marrieds) to eat, but longed for the days of playing that gut-wrenching electric blues he loved so much. Fate would place Lightnin’ in a two-bit dive north of Columbus, his BSA busted and him too broke to afford the new gudgeon pins it needed. Here he met another lost bluesman, Mudcat T. Bass, guitarist and keyboard player extraordinaire. Ironically, Mudcat was also a veteran of the Bug Splat Williams tour, having also taken Left-Foot’s place while the old man was recovering from a stab wound. An instant bond between the two Bluesmen began, and together they formed short-lived but legendary blues quartet Funk Bucket, and toured up and down the mighty Mississippi. The band fell apart about the same time as their van did, and all went their own ways. But the soul and the blues remained with both men.
Lightnin’ went on to play with The Homewreckers, The Bleu Chunkx, and Mo Narlli and the Fast Boys, and gained notoriety with his blazing licks and lyrical screaming antics. After several years playing the Okra Belt juke clubs in the deep south, Lightnin’ tired of the road, and moved to Cleveland to work for his Uncle Jack selling luminaries. Again fate would intervene, when a buffed and rested Mudcat T. re-emerged from a long self-imposed sabbatical from the Blues. Seems he was also holed-up in Cleveland, hiding out from a particularly jealous big-legged woman. It was just a matter of time before the old band mates pulled themselves together and started the
Acme Blues Rockets
. The rest, as they say, is history.