Welcome to the first installment of “Get to Know the Band,” which will be a regular part of BUZ’s increasing coverage of the local music scene and live music. This month’s feature is the Norm Ruebling Band, a six-piece setup with horns playing together since 1995. In an interview with BUZ contributor Laura Schrimpf, we learn from Norm Ruebling how he caught his passion for music, about his incredible bandmates and how he strives to use music to end division and bring peace.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’ve been playing drums since I was 11 (I’m 68…ouch) so you can easily do the math. I have played in garage bands since junior high thru college. I played on the road with a great group called Yellow Brick Road (I thought I wanted to be a rock star and fill arenas with 15,000 screaming fans). 13 months was enough. I went on to be a band director at Union High School, SE Louisiana State University, Emporia State University and Mizzou, and now I own MO-X, Doc & Norm Direct and have kept playing music into the best years of my life.
What got you into music?
My band director from Buchanan High School, in Troy, MO (go Trojans!!!!). My best friend and I were helping him move stuff into the band room and he casually asked if I was in the band. My response was no. His response was “Great! You’re my new (and only) drummer.”
What musical group has most influenced you?
Count Basie Band, Buddy Rich Band, Maynard Ferguson, and Tower of Power.
What did you listen to growing up?
The Beatles (of course) Jimi Hendrix and nothing but big band and horn band stuff (above mentioned plus Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears)
Do you have a band bio?
Just the byline on the website at www.normrueblingband.com.
What type of genres do you play?
Everything. I would guess there is no other band anywhere that has our song list. Sinatra to the Beatles, Stevie Wonder to Buble`, Big Band, Jazz, Funk, Bruno Mars, Chicago, Tower of Power, Blood, Sweat & Tears, the Stones, Steely Dan…you want it—we bring it.
What instrument(s) do you (your band) play/feature?
I feature everyone except the drummer (me). I always tell my guys their job is to make the drummer look like he knows what he is doing and to make the drummer sound awesome.
Do you write original music?
I do not but Will West (guitar, vocals) Ken Kehner (piano, vocals) & Jim Manley (trumpet) have done numerous cd’s and originals.
What do you feel is the best song you have written and why?
Just my tunes I sing in the shower and long rides alone in my truck. All untitled thus far.
Have you produced any albums?
No, but Jim Manely has.
What do the part-time musicians do for a day job?
Will owns Will West Music & Sound in Jefferson City. Ken has a piano & vocal studio in Jeff of 30+ students. Joe Bayer (saxophone) is a professional photographer, John “Robo” Robinson (bass) is a retired school administrator, teacher & mentor for 40+ years. Jim Manley is a professional musician and recording artist. You know about me. All the players are in high demand for performance work. They are the best at their craft.
What is your bands favorite song to play?
Mine is “Make Me Smile” because it is demanding, and it makes me smile. “What is Hip” is a great Tower of Power funk tune that also makes us work. And of course, “Try a Little Tenderness.” The other guys may disagree with my choices, but hey, I’m the leader.
What’s your favorite local venue to play at?
There are so many in Mid-Missouri: Katfish Katy’s, Cooper’s Landing, Shiloh, Pierpont General Store, The Rose. Any venue that supports live music is my favorite
What is your current favorite song on your personal playlist?
I have a seven-hour “Norm’s Mix” I put together that would knock your socks off plus a great sitting on the deck watching the sun go down sipping on a single malt scotch with a cigar and chillin’ to my “Country at Sundown” list. It doesn’t get any better. As for a favorite song? Today it’s Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife”.
What's the most memorable concert you ever attended?
Jimi Hendrix in St. Louis at Kiel Auditorium. I was 13. My current band and I (The Night Raiders) paid a senior girl in high school to drive us. We paid gas, food, her ticket, and yes, a case of Falstaff. Unbelievable.
What's the most memorable moment in your performing career?
September 1988. The first home football game at Mizzou when I stood on the podium as director of marching Mizzou and directed the “Missouri Fanfare.” I thought I was going to pass out.
If you didn't become a musician, what would you be doing right now?
A lawyer but practicing every day to be a musician.
If you could be a fruit, which one would you be and why?
Oh, stop right there, this is a family article!
What musician would you like to collaborate with?
Elton John. He is flat out incredible, and I stole all the licks from his drummer, Nigel Olson.
What would be your dream gig?
I have it now.
If you can have your fans remember one thing about your band, what would it be?
We came to play and to leave you with wanting more.
What's next for you?
Every day I thank God for my gifts and his endless opportunities and always look for that “Okay. That was special moment.”
If you had one message to share with your fans, what would it be?
Music is the one universal language and I pray that we can find a way through music to help end this division, injustice, racism, cruelty to each other and live in peace. Yes, very noble and chest puffing, but music has touched so many lives, let’s continue to use this vehicle to touch more.
You can experience the Norm Ruebling Band at Cooper’s Landing on Sept. 19 at 6 p.m., Katfish Katy’s on Oct. 1 at 6 p.m. and Rose Music Hall Park on Oct. 8 at 5:30 p.m. For additional dates and times, check next out their website at www.normrueblingband.com. Click on “schedule” in the top menu to see all gigs and start times (subject to change). To book an event, call Norm’s cell 573-219-0079 or email email@example.com.