Listening Local: Teenage Blues

Falmouth Blues musician Aaron Norcross celebrates his 15th birthday by performing with his band, The Old Dogs, Sunday at the Beach House in North FalmouthPHOTO COURTESY AMY LYNNE - Falmouth Blues musician Aaron Norcross celebrates his 15th birthday by performing with his band, The Old Dogs, Sunday at the Beach House in North Falmouth

I’m standing in a dimly lit bar, shoulder-to-shoulder, and the air smells like beer and a little sweat. On stage is a blues trio, old school by the looks of it, right down to their matching, bowling-style shirts.

“The sky is crying,” snarls the lead singer, ripping into the guitar line; the rhythm section drops in, and the place is rocking.

“Damn, Stevie Ray Vaughn,” cries out an enthusiastic patron in front of me, almost spilling his whiskey, “yeah, baby!”

The crowd dances the night away, while the band tears through blues classics, and their own original tunes.

Something about this trio, aside from great chops and chemistry stands out—the front man is only 14 years old. Guitarist/singer Aaron Norcross Jr. and his band, The Old Dogs, will be celebrating his 15th birthday this Sunday with a concert at The Beach House in North Falmouth.

When Aaron was 3 years old he was sitting in his living room plucking away on a guitar, while his dad watched The Who, live at Madison Square Garden on television. Aaron saw Pete Townsend, thrashing on his guitar, windmill strumming and jumping up and down; he was transfixed by the man on stage and knew he wanted to be a guitar player.

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At the age of 7, Aaron walked into a Wareham music shop to take lessons, armed with a Fender Squire. The guitar was the same color red as that of his idol, Pete Townsend. By the time he was 10 years old, Aaron was gigging in music venues all over the South Shore, honing his skills and stage presence.

Although starting out as a rock ’n roller, Aaron soon fell in love with the blues.

“When you learn a rock ’n roll song,” he explained to me, “you have to play it identical to the way it was recorded, or people won’t recognize it. When you learn a blues song, you get the basic pattern down, and from there, can completely change it. You can use swing, shuffle, jump beats, you name it. One of my favorites is real slow blues.”

Some of his influences are Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Joe Bonamassa, but if he could sit and trade solos with anyone it would be Gary Moore.

In April 2012 he took a handful of original songs he’d written, along with a few choice covers, into Kid Charlemagne studios, to record a demo with producer/engineer/musician John McNamara. One of the standout songs, “Day to Day,” has gotten some spins on blues radio shows.

Aaron’s current band, The Old Dogs, comprises drummer Richard Buck of Mashpee and bassist Michael Preston of Marstons Mills, two music scene veterans. When I asked him what people can expect from one of their shows, he said, “High energy blues and rockabilly sound, all the way from the 1930s till now. Everything from Roy Head and T Bone, to Bonamassa and Vaughn. It’s a great crowd at our shows and we are very approachable.”

Aside from music Aaron enjoys playing football and hockey. He also enjoys school, so much so that he is currently trying to accumulate enough credits to graduate a year early and attend Julliard, the performing arts school, in New York City.

Aaron Norcross Jr. is growing up fast. Come and celebrate with him and The Old Dogs, this Sunday at The Beach House, at 5 PM.

If you can’t make the show, you can still sample some of Aaron’s music at aaronnorcrossjr.com.

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