Norman B. (radio personality)

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Norman B, radio personality

Norman Batley (aka Norman B.) is a radio personality who has hosted and programmed award-winning shows for stations in the United Kingdom, Seattle, Washington and Tampa, Florida. He has also made design and music contributions to well-known restaurant concepts in the Tampa Bay area. Norman B. continues to program, write and edit the popular blogsite "Life Elsewhere," a mix of rare music and commentary that draws visitors from around the planet, and in February 2013 launched the weekly program "Life Elsewhere" on Tampa public radio station, WMNF.[1]

Career[edit]

Norman B. emcees "Kiss the Sky! The Orca Freedom Concert with Heart, Graham Nash and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts at Seattle's EMP Museum on April 22, 2014.
Legendary radio personality Norman B. in studio at WMNF/Tampa in 2013, hosting "Life Elsewhere."

Norman B.'s career has spanned the worlds of fashion, food, advertising and music. After attending Twickenham School of Graphic Art in London in the late 1960s, he worked as a graphic artist for BBC News, creating black-and-white cards live in the studio. He later began working as Art Director for EMI Records, doing album covers for some of the top recording arts populating "Swinging London." He then left EMI to begin his boutique design agency called Norman Batley Associates.

In the late 1970s, Batley crossed the Atlantic Ocean, bought a Cadillac and began exploring America, emerging in Seattle in 1979 as "Norman B.," host of his newly branded, "Life Elsewhere," an alternative rock radio show on the non-profit station, KRAB.

"In the 1970s, KRAB played a critical role in fomenting the early punk rock scene in Seattle by being the first radio station in the Pacific Northwest to broadcast punk music on the air, mostly on its 'Life Elsewhere' program with DJ Norman Batley," writes historian Jeff Stevens in "Counterculture Seattle Remembers."[2]

For several years, "Life Elsewhere" would then cross the country as a popular syndicated program, going out to college stations throughout the U.S. It later became a permanent feature on the now-legendary station, KCMU (KCMU became KEXP-FM 90.3FM in April 2001).

During this period, Norman B. held a weekly residency at the alternative Seattle dance venue, “Tugs Belltown”. Along the way, "Life Elsewhere" morphed into a weekly show for the ground-breaking pirate station Phoenix Radio out of London. Back in Seattle, Norman B. launched the popular reggae show "Positive Vibrations" for KCMU. With a preference for lover’s rock, early dance-hall and rare dub, this untraditional show could be heard blasting out of radios all over Seattle on Saturday mornings.[3]

"'All things considered, 'Positive Vibrations' may be the best show on local radio," wrote Bart Becker of The Seattle Weekly. "The host Norman Batley is a chatty, funny, informative Britisher."[4]

Norman B.’s first foray into commercial radio was in 1984 for top-rated album-oriented rock station KXRX, where he produced and hosted "Seattle Blues," a Sunday night show that drew a large and devoted following.[5] Bart Becker of The Seattle Weekly wrote that Norman B. was "stirring up the Sunday night radio waves" and "breaking the sound barrier."[6] The ratings for "Seattle Blues" were so strong that he was lured away to host a midday talk show on KGW in Portland, Oregon, with the KXRX management flying the host back and forth between the two cities. Prompted by the success of "Seattle Blues," KXRX unveiled a new weekly new music show hosted by Norman B. called, "The Xtra Hour."[7]

In August 1991, at the peak of Seattle's globally renowned "grunge" music wave, Norman B. was hired away from KXRX to become drive-time personality on the newly launched alternative radio station 107.7 KNDD The End.[8] Within six weeks of The End's first broadcast, three albums by local artists — "Ten" by Pearl Jam, "Nevermind" by Nirvana and "Badmotorfinger" by Soundgarden — were released, reaching the top of the Billboard charts, and KNDD was riding the wave. Within a year the new station was "defying history," as reported in the Seattle Times.[9] "This spring's Arbitron ratings show KNDD in the top three stations among listeners aged 18-34," writes Times reporter Ken Hunt. "The station has become profitable and has become one of the most active sponsors of concerts and club nights around the area."[10]

The Seattle Weekly wrote that "In the past six months 'The End' has become one of the hottest stations in the city. Night guy Marco Collins has an annoying habit of cracking up at his own jokes, and morning jock Bill Reid often fashions a more-obnoxious-than-thou attitude, but leonine Brit and gentleman rocker Norman B makes an amiable afternoon companion."[11]

"I loved all of the DJs," recalls blogger Michael Sutton on the occasion of The End's 20th anniversary. "Especially Marco Collins, Bill Reid (whom I remembered from KJET), British iconoclast Norman B. (a favorite of mine when he was upsetting KXRX’s bell-bottom crowd with an alternative weekly), and the late Bryan Jones. The eclectic mix of music – from the rave-fueled boogie of Big Audio Dynamite to the metallic roar of Soundgarden to the acoustic-folk melodrama of A Man Called E (later of the Eels) to the radiant glow of the Ocean Blue to the vintage jangle of the Beatles to the brooding intensity of Joy Division – was radio at its finest."[12]

By the first part of the 1990s, grunge had made Seattle the center of the universe for popular music, The End its chief purveyer in the market, and Norman B. that station's highest-profile on-air personality. In 1993 readers of The Seattle Weekly voted Norman B. "Best Radio Voice," edging out Hall of Fame Seattle Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus.[13] His "smooth British voice adds class," wrote Elizabethe Brown of the Bellevue Journal American.

Norman B. also became a must-stop interview for recording artists coming through the Pacific Northwest. His unique, easy-going style and gathering reputation as one of the region's top musicologists drew exclusive and often strikingly intimate interviews with stars like David Bowie, Tori Amos, Sheryl Crow and Johnny Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten.

He was also given the opportunity on The End to launch the first commercial version of "Life Elsewhere," entitled "Around The World With Norman B.," showcasing music often overlooked or considered unsuitable for radio airplay.

In 1997, Norman B. left The End and journeyed across the U.S. again, lured by the highly rated WSJT in Tampa, Florida to anchor that station's format makeover. "The Norman B. Show," co-hosted by Maria Jannello, would premiere that year with a new music-intensive, personality-driven format, and soon gained a large following.[14] But just two years into his three-year contract, and despite strong ratings, the downward trend of local radio across the country soon befell WSJT and the station was forced to cancel "The Norman B. Show."

'Life Elsewhere' for the Web[edit]

Since leaving WSJT Tampa and a full-time gig on radio in 1999, Norman B. has continued spinning his extraordinary perspectives on life and music on the World Wide Web, through the popular website "Life Elsewhere." The site draws on his remarkable personal archive of recorded music, including thousands of singles, EPs, 12” EPs, albums, tapes, cassettes, videos, CDs and MP3s. Norman B.'s reggae collection alone is one of the biggest in the world, brimming with rare dubs and limited editions. The site also draws from his immense library of interviews he's conducted over the years with musicians, entertainers, politicians and diverse celebrities.

Restaurateur[edit]

After three company changes at WSJT Tampa in less than two years, reflecting dramatic changes throughout the industry, Norman B. "decided" to step away from radio and pursue his lifelong dream—the restaurant business. In 1997 he became involved with Cafe BT, a unique French-Vietnamese bistro, owned by B.T. Nguyen, which soon went on to become one of the most popular establishments in the Tampa area, earning a rating by Conde Nast as one of the “Top 60 Restaurants in the World."[15] Shortly after the launch, the St. Petersburg Times wrote in a review that "high style comes in a tiny boite. French and Vietnamese flavors meet with flair in stunning soups, meat salads and classic entrees. Fresh herbs and flowers are as luxurious as the duck and lobster. Best service of the year."[16]

Norman B. went on to assist design and music efforts in BT's decision to open three more establishments in south Florida, including The Yellow Door, described as a "paradox" by food writer Natalie Capisi of Clique in "that is as visionary as it is rooted in custom, making it an enjoyable puzzle to ponder as you show off your chopsticking skills."[17]

"The Yellow Door My favorite new entry in the Hyde Park dining scene," writes Sara Kennedy of CL Tampa. "The Yellow Door is Restaurant Royalty. It's a fabulously original, creative and consistent restaurant that any foodie would love. I tried a number of dishes, and was astonished at their complexity and sheer exuberance. I nearly dropped my fancy chopsticks in a fit of swooning."[18]

On August 16, 2002, staff writer Michael Canning of the St. Petersburg Times reported that "one of Tampa's most consistently stylish restaurateurs, B.T. Nguyen, plans to open a third restaurant. Regulars know to expect stylish decor and natty wait staff. Nguyen promises a Zen motif with cool colors, natural textures, and 'a very strong emphasis on balance.' Servers may be outfitted in black T-shirts with quotes from Confucius."[19]

The Tampa Bay Times wrote on the opening of Restaurant BT, the fourth restaurant collaboration of Norman B.'s ex-wife, that "B.T. Nguyen presents the flavors of France and Vietnam with a style of her own, half feng shui, half fashion model." In 2005, it was honored with a prestigious Golden Spoon Award by Florida Trend Magazine, acknowledging it for its "stellar track record of service and selection" and recognizing it for its "individual achievement and distinctive contributions to the Florida restaurant scene."

A common aspect of all of Norman B.'s contributions to these restaurant projects has been its selection of unique, subtle ambient music drawn from his other professional life and the critically acclaimed decor, specifically its use of original photographs of people, most shot by Batley himself.

"The photos hang in two long rows over the bar, creating a focal point for all who come to relax, celebrate or forget," writes Susan Thurston, Tampa Bay Times. "Each subject holds a drink - wine, beer, even milk. People ask about them constantly."[20]

"Diners may recognize the curved walls and oversized ceiling columns," writes Michael Canning, Tampa Bay Times. "But the rest of the space has been redone in adherence to feng shui principles. Bamboo and cedar surfaces and modern track lighting hold sway in the dining room. Steel mesh curtains partition the lounge, which features a stainless steel bar and Batley's black and white portraits of staff, family and patrons. (Can you spot attorney John Fitzgibbons? Hinks and Elaine Shimberg?)"[21]

Norman B. and 'Life Elsewhere' Return to Radio[edit]

Norman B. and producer Andrea Jackson, "Life Elsewhere."

In February 2013, after over a decade away from radio, Norman B. was back on the air, relaunching "Life Elsewhere" as a weekly music, arts and culture program on Tampa Bay public radio station WMNF.

The Tampa Bay Tribune reported the premiere of "Life Elsewhere" as part of a programming overhaul at WMNF, with the independent, non-profit station "tweaking the schedule in response to what our listeners have said about what they like and don't like," according to Program Director Randy Wind.[22]

"'We want to entertain and enlighten,'" said Norman B., who is from England but has had a long radio career in Portland and Seattle as a talk show host."[23]

Since its launch on WMNF, "Life Elsewhere" has featured an eclectic mix of personalities from the world of politics and entertainment, including regular appearances from Norman B.'s old Seattle friend, Grammy Award-winning recording artist Sir Mix-a-Lot.

On September 26, 2013, preeminent New York creative director Robert Newman shared his praise for the show, Tweeting "my favorite hour of morning radio: Life Elsewhere on @WMNF, with host @NormanBRadio - essential listening!"

Loyal Listeners[edit]

Norman B. remains one of the most recognized radio personalities in the Pacific Northwest—even though he hasn't been on air in the Seattle market since the mid-1990s. In a Seattle Post-Intelligencer column,[24] reporter Bill Virgin surveyed readers on "what local hosts or personalities do you miss that you'd like to have back on the air?"

Norman B. was near the top of that list.

"Think no one cares about an old-fashioned communications medium like radio?," writes Virgin. "Then ask people what they think about it -- and see if anyone cares enough to respond. We did ask. They did respond. And it's obvious people do care about radio."

Radio Career Timeline[edit]

1979 – 1980 - KOAS/Olympia
Weekly alternative show on campus station that gave birth to Op Magazine and K Records, and helped launch the career of the founder of Sub Pop Records and numerous musical and artistic talents.
1979 – 1982 - KRAB/Seattle
Weekly alternative show "Life Elsewhere" on free-form public station, part of the original Pacifica group. 1980 – 1981 - KXRX/Seattle
Commercial rock station; introduced "Seattle Blues," an early version of what would later become an award-winning and long-running brand.
1980 – 1989 - KCMU/Seattle (now KEXP-FM)
Leading non-profit station now owned by Microsoft’s Paul Allen; hosted "Positive Vibrations," a weekly reggae show with the highest-rated Arbitron 12+ numbers for the time slot; hosted "Life Elsewhere," a highly rated pre-recorded weekly alternative show, distributed and heard on over 25 college stations.
1981 –1983 - Phoenix Radio/London
Weekly overview of alternative American music on a pirate station in the UK that went on to achieve commercial success.
1984 – 1991 - KXRX/Seattle
Regular air-shift on this leading commercial station; winner of “Best Radio Voice” award.
1984 – 1991 - KXRX/Seattle
Hosted and programmed the weekly program, "Seattle Blues," the longest-running and highest-rated “specialty show” in Seattle radio history.
1988 – 1991 - KGW/Portland
Radio personality for the midday show on a new talk station in Oregon.
1991 – 1997 - KNDD/Seattle
Afternoon drive-time Launch Host for new commercial alternative station at the height of Seattle "grunge" music phenomena, elevating the station as a national leader in commercial alternative radio. Included interviews with all the latest talent, celebrities and newsmakers. Arbitron rated KNDD the leading 12+ station in the country.
1997 – 1999 - WSJT/Tampa
Launch Host of "The Norman B. Show," a magazine-style morning show for adult music station, with celebrity and newsmaker interviews, telephone calls, scripted sketches and characters.
1999–Present
Founder and Proprietor of "Life Elsewhere," a music and lifestyle blogsite.
2013–Present - WMNF/Tampa
Launch Host and Proprietor of "Life Elsewhere," a weekly music, arts and culture program.

Restaurant Career Timeline[edit]

1997 – 2006
Music and decor collaborations with ex-wife B.T. Nguyen for Cafe BT, The Yellow Door, The Noodle Lounge, and Restaurant BT in Tampa, Florida (U.S.).
1997–Present
Aspiring consultant for new and existing dining establishments.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "WMNF Returns to Drive Time Music," Walt Belcher, Tampa Bay Tribune, February 4, 2013
  2. ^ "December 12, 1962: KRAB Goes on the Air," Jeff Stevens, Counterculture Seattle Remembers." December 12, 2012
  3. ^ "Positive Vibrations," The Rocket, July 1996.
  4. ^ "Radio Daze - How Discerning Listeners Can Overcome Dull Programming," Bart Becker, Seattle Weekly, December 2, 1987
  5. ^ "Seattle Blues," Jim Kelton, Everett Herald, November 18, 1988
  6. ^ "Stirring Up Sunday Night Radio Waves: "Radio Rebel, Opinionated FM Deejay Norman B Breaks the Sound Barrier," Bart Becker, April 5, 1989
  7. ^ "X-tra, X-tra, Read All About It," Seattle Weekly, February 22, 1989
  8. ^ "The End: Chapter 1 -- Seattle's Newest Alternative Station Is Still Very Much A Work-In-Progress," Kit Boss, Seattle Times, September 27, 1991.
  9. ^ "The Beginning Of The End -- Alternative Rock Station KNDD Is Almost One Year Old And Going Strong," Ken Hunt, Seattle Times, July 26, 1992
  10. ^ "The Radio Graveyard - Why Progressive Radio Fails in Seattle and How to Revive It," Bart Becker, Seattle Weekly, January 9, 1993
  11. ^ "107.7 The End," Seattle Weekly, January 4, 1995
  12. ^ "The End's 20th BDay - Kind Words From A 'Friend of The End,'" Michael Sutton, TheEnd.com
  13. ^ "Best of List: And the Readers Say..." Seattle Weekly, June 23, 1993
  14. ^ 'Friday Extra: Fed Up With Commercial Radio? You're Not Alone," Tampa Tribune, November 12, 1999
  15. ^ "Top 60 Restaurants," Conde Nast Traveler 2005
  16. ^ "1999 On the Restaurant Beat: Best Canh Cuo Tom, Lobster in Dubonnet and, Oh My, Just Everything," Chris Sherman, St. Petersburg Times, December 24, 1999
  17. ^ "Yellow Door Adventure," Natalie Capisi, Clique, May 1, 2002
  18. ^ "Hyde Parking," Sara Kennedy, Creative Loafing Tampa, August 21, 2002
  19. ^ "Noodles are Their Specialty," Michael Canning, St. Petersburg Times, August 16, 2002
  20. ^ "What's Brewing: Face Value is a $500 Donation," Susan Thurston, Tampa Bay Times, September 16, 2005
  21. ^ Everybody's Business: Oodles of Noodles and More at B.T.," Michael Canning, Tampa Bay Times, April 1, 2005
  22. ^ "WMNF Returns to Drive Time Music," Walt Belcher, Tampa Bay Tribune, February 4, 2013
  23. ^ "WMNF Returns to Drive Time Music," Walt Belcher, Tampa Bay Tribune, February 4, 2013
  24. ^ "Radio Beat: P-I Survey Indicates People Do Care About Radio Fare," Bill Virgin, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 9, 2003

External links[edit]