Songwriter, singer, guitarist, band leader, recording artist and producer Norman Nardini bills himself as the “Manful! Handful”…"the high priest from the church of rock’n roll" and the “Uncrowned King” of rock and roll. He earned his billing playing thousands of gritty East Coast rock club gigs with his energetic over the top performances. Nardini gained national attention releasing recordings on the Buddah, CBS, and Circumstantial labels as the leader of "Norman Nardini and the Tigers" and on Atlantic Records as a member of Diamond Reo. Over his 50 year career he has rocked audiences with his wild antics and clever songs at top rock clubs up and down the East Coast including the Stone Pony, Kenny's Castaway, Buffalo's Mohawk club, the Cleveland Agora and clubs in Florida. He hit the top 5 in the German music charts and toured Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in 1991.
”Norman Nardini is the epitome of rock’n’roll. He lives it and breathes it. The greatest compliment anybody can pay a player is that he lives it. God bless him for it…” ~Jon Bon Jovi
From Accordion to Rock and RollNorman Nardini was born at the beginning of the rock era in 1951. He took up music at age 6 learning to play accordion at a Natrona Heights accordion school. He made one of his first public appearances playing accordion in a talent show at the Cheswick Theater in 1957. At 12 he decided he wanted to make music his life's work.
Norman began playing rock and roll on Hammond B-3 organ in 1966 with a cover band named the Yardleys with guitarist Robbie John. Norm and Rob left the Yardleys to join the Igniters when they went under the name the Friends. Norman was also hired to play guitar and keyboards in pick up bands that backed Little Anthony and the Imperials, The Detroit Emeralds, and The Manhattans in Pittsburgh area performances. He attended the Berklee School in Boston. In 1971, while living in Boston Nardini spent a week playing guitar for music legend Big Mama Thornton and George “Harmonica’ Smith at The Jazz Workshop.
Working as a session played at Fox Studios in Pittsburgh he performed on recordings by At Fox studio he had the opportunity to play on recordings by Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners, Lou Christie, and Terry Bradshaw. and played bass on Jimmy Pohl's Steeler fight song version of “The Pennsylvania Polka”.
National Success with Diamond Rio
Norman joined with Frank Cruzi, Bubs McKeg, and Robbie Johns to form the band Diamond Reo in 1974. Norman played bass and wrote songs. Working with producer Tom Cossie Diamond Reo recorded a demo tape at East Liberty's Red Fox Studio and sent it off to Atlantic Records. The Atlantic subsidiary Big Tree Records released Diamond Reo’s first album “Diamond Reo” in 1975. Scoring a top 40 hit with a version of the Marvin Gaye song, "Ain't That Peculiar" the band launched a national tour. They appeared on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" and performed with Kiss, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Frank Zappa, Kansas, Ian Hunter, Blue Oyster Cult, Rush, Kiss and Canned Heat.
Adding guitarist Warren King to the band Diamond Reo released the "Dirty Diamonds" album in 1976 on Kama Sutra. Nardini, Czuri, and Warren King, co-wrote most of the music on that release. Diamond Rio recorded their last album "Ruff Cuts" on the Piccadilly label in 1978. The group disbanded later 1978 as punk and new wave were emerging.
Norman Nardini & The TigersLeaving Diamond Reo Nardini started his own band “Norman Nardini & The Tigers” for his first shot as lead singer, lead guitar and chief song writer. The original line-up included his Diamond Reo band mates Warren King and Robbie Johns along with drummer Derrick Edwards and bassist Ray Gunn. They recorded the 3 song EP "Norman Nardini and the Tigers" featuring Norman's song "Burn'in Up", "Ready Freddy" and a cover of Psycho. After Warren King quit the Tigers to form the Silencers with Franz Czuri, Norman reformed the band recruiting guitarist Paul Shook, keyboard player Nason Gieg and drummer Mark Whitey Cooper from the band Resistance. The Tigers quickly became popular playing the Pittsburgh area clubs Fat City, Morry's Speakeasy, and others. They also performed in Cleveland, Detroit, Asbury Park's Stone Pony, the College Avenue Pub at Rutgers College along with other Jersey shore clubs in Long Branch, Asbury Park and points south..
Headlining at the Fast Lane club in Asbury Park, New Jersey in 1980 Norman made friends with the lead singer of the opening act the Rest. He became life long friends with the newcomer Jon Bon Jovi who was in high school a the time. Impressed with Norman and his band, Bon Jovi invited them to his house, where they had dinner with Jon’s family. They stayed friends since that evening. Norman played at Jon Bon Jovi's wedding.
With growing popularity on the east coast, the Tigers attracted the attention of some national labels. The Tigers released their first album "Eat'n Alive” in 1981 on Buddah Records. It was recorded live on January 14, 1981, at Cleveland's Agora Ballroom during a WMMS Coffee Break Concert. Pittsburgh Press music writer Pete Bishop praised the album. "The raw, unbridled power and the joy of rock 'n' roll on this disc are such welcome changes from senescent adult contemporary flue and social significant young Britons. Lest you think "Eat'n Alive" is juvenile or Neanderthal heavy metal,..many songs have melodies enhancing the thunder. Nardini has a surprisingly good voice and even better diction for a hard rock singer.."
Norman Nardini and the Tigers signed a recording deal with CBS Records in 1982. CBS released the “Norman Nardini and The Tigers” album in January of 1985. Recorded at The Power Station, New York it featured Warren King on guitar and Norman’s longtime friend, Jon Bon Jovi, on background vocals.
In 1987, CBS released “Love Dog” which featured Rick Derringer, Dr. John and Paul Schaeffer. The Philadelphia Inquirer gave it a 3 star (good) review. This Pittsburgh-based rocker makes rough rock-and-roll with a pervasive air of rhythm-and-blues - he may come out of a Springsteen tradition, but he's more original than, say, Southside Johnny. Nardini likes to present himself as a street-tough Romeo - he is, he asserts, a love dog - which makes his runty bluntness all the more appealing."
Throughout the 90’s, Norman continued touring and recording. He released 3 CDs on the New York City label Circumstantial as Norman Nardini: The label was owned by Larry Germack, who had been a Pittsburgh music writer and DJ. Pittsburgh Post Gazette reviewer Peter B. King wrote: Norman Nardini 's first full-length album in almost five years helps prove the adage that things get better with age. Nardini sings in an altogether fuller, more convincing growl than on 1986's "Love Dog." The songs are better too; Nardini no longer relies on half-baked odes to sexy mamas..... It sizzles with gutsy, unadorned, guitar-driven roots rock, surprisingly well-recorded at Nardini's own Transport Studios in Swissvale.
Norman Conquers Germany
“This Ole Train” Nardini's second release on Circumstantial in 1991 found an audience in Germany. The single "Smoke Two Joints" rose to No. 2 on the charts in Munich and the single "Please Don't Talk About Me" made it to the top 5 on Radio M1, a major station in the Bavaria that had a million listeners. To promote the album Norman toured Germany, Austria, and Switzerland opening 15 shows for the Blues Brothers. He appeared in several cities from May 22 to June 4 opening opening 2,000- to 3,000-seat halls for the Blues Brothers Band, which included Booker T., Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd, "Duck" Dunn and Matt "Guitar" Murphy. He also headlined several club dates.
Norman released “Breakdown In Paradise” in 1994 and 1996’s, “It’s Alive”. In 1998, Moondog Records released Norman's “There Was A Time”.
Through the years, Norman has continued to develop his guitar playing, song writing skills and stage persona. Norman released the album “Redemption” with 16 written between 1977 – 1988. The album features l drummer-singer, Whitey Clyde Cooper and bass player,/ singer Harry Bottoms. Hermie Granti appears as special guest on keyboards along with Phil Brontz on Tenor Sax. Nardini released the albums "Breakdown in Paradise" in 2009 and "Bona Fide" in 2011. The Nighthawks recorded 3 of Nardini’s songs on their 2012 "Damn Good Time" Release.