Aaron Norcross and The Old Dogs@The Beach House
When: Sun Jan 12th
8:00 pm - 11:30 pm
Aaron Norcross Jr., of Marion, seems like a regular teenager, juggling honors-level schoolwork, football practices and a solid group of friends. But he also plays guitar, and that’s where his life is anything but typical.
The 14-year-old freshman at Rochester Regional High School has played more than 40 shows with his band — Aaron Norcross and the Old Dogs — this year alone at bars and restaurants around the area, including the Duck Inn Pub, House of Bud’s, and Harry’s at the Depot, all in Hyannis; and Planck’s Tavern at Oliver’s restaurant in Yarmouthport.
While balancing two back-to-back shows in a weekend, playing as a linebacker on the freshman football team, and doing homework can sometimes be a struggle, Aaron says he does his best to find a halfway point between his passion and academic necessities.
“School always comes first, but music has been something that’s defined me for almost eight years now,” Aaron says. He already has high aspirations, hoping to go to New York City after he graduates from high school, and study music at The Julliard School.
His father, Aaron Norcross Sr., 49, watched his son pick up a plastic guitar at age 2, and then took him to his first concert at only 5 years old — to see The Who at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
“I have two amazing parents who introduced me to good music at an early age,” Aaron says, including Lenny Kravitz and Steppenwolf. Without their support, he adds, his success now wouldn’t be possible.
When he was 7, Aaron’s parents enrolled him in private music classes in Wareham. That same year, Aaron performed The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” on stage at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, according to his website.
The next year, Norcross put together his first band, The Dukes of Gravity, which was primarily a cover band. They entered a Battle of the Bands contest, came in second, and earned a spot to play at the Onset “Summer of Love” music series. In 2008, at age 9, Aaron started to play as a warm-up act for musicians around the South Coast.
Aaron didn’t talk with his classmates about his love of performing until eighth grade, when he played solo guitar and sang to a blues backing for a school talent show. “He won with a standing ovation,” notes his father.
After discovering his affinity for blues, Aaron found a guitar teacher who specialized in blues, and last year, assembled Aaron Norcross and the Old Dogs. The band’s name stems from the fact that Aaron’s drummer and bass player are Richard “Dicky” Buck, 47, and Michael Preston, 58.
“We liked the ring to the ‘Old Dogs,’” says Preston. “But we wanted to have Aaron’s name in it, because he’s the star.”
The group plays a fusion of blues and rockabilly, performing a mix of cover songs and originals. They are working on getting three full sets of originals, he says.
Preston first met Aaron on stage when he was 11 and asked to play a couple of songs with his own guitar. “At first I was hesitant, so I let him play two songs,” Preston says. “Then I saw he was really, really good.” A few months later, Aaron called Preston about starting the band.
The Old Dogs’ first gig was at the Duck Inn Pub. Owner John Greene first heard Aaron at a 2012 “Jam Session” at which local musicians play together on Wednesday nights and was instantly impressed with Aaron’s talent. “I told him that as soon as he gets his band together, I’d give him a chance to play here and hire him.” Greene says. After the Old Dogs’ first drummer left, Buck came in and the current band was formed.
Those who’ve hired the group are impressed by Aaron’s talent and demeanor. Greene says Aaron has a phenomenal stage presence when he walks around the bar with his guitar over his shoulder, interacting with the audience: “It really was a show.”
Before and after shows at Harry’s at the Depot, manager Rebecca Aupperle says, Aaron is always “one of the most polite people in the world” and “really holds his own for 14.” Candace Chambers, owner of the House of Bud’s, calls Aaron “so talented” and “a prodigy type.”
Buck calls Aaron a “level-headed” and “very mature” young man, but says “when the instruments go on, there are no ages.” The band is sometimes mistaken for a family, Preston says, noting, “People ask me all the time if he’s my grandson.”
Both bandmates believe Aaron has great potential for success in music. “(My best advice) would be to go see this band and this guy now, before you have to pay to see him,” Preston says. “He’s incredible.”