Sugar Ray & The Bluetones Biography

Raymond Alan Norcia, 6 June 1954, Westerly, Rhode Island, USA. Sugar Ray began playing harmonica while in his teens. He eventually formed the Bluetones, a band with which he played regularly at a blues club in Providence, Rhode Island. There, and also in Boston, Massachusetts, the band backed visiting blues artists including Roosevelt Sykes, Big Mama Thornton and Joe Turner. This was during the late 70s, and at the end of the decade the Bluetones had become the regular backing group for a long-time associate, guitarist Ronnie Earl. This was shortly before Earl joined another Rhode Island-based group, Roomful Of Blues. Sugar Ray recorded some EPs around this time under his own name and he also recorded with Earl. He continued playing with the Bluetones throughout the 80s and around the end of the decade he and the band made some albums for Rounder Records.

In 1991 Sugar Ray joined Roomful Of Blues, becoming lead singer in addition to playing harmonica. With the group he recorded several acclaimed albums, including the Grammy-nominated Turn It On! Turn It Up! (1995). He also recorded a session with Little Anthony, Take It From Me (1994). Towards the end of the 90s, Sugar Ray left Roomful Of Blues and resumed recording with the Bluetones. In addition to playing with small groups, he has also led bigger outfits similar to the occasionally expanded Roomful Of Blues band in which he had played during the 90s. At the end of the 90s Sugar Ray was on Superharps alongside James Cotton, Billy Branch and Charlie Musselwhite, and also released the solo set Sweet & Swingin’.

Sugar Ray has attracted a following not only through the various artists with whom he has played but also through his distinctive harmonica playing. Allied to this is his warm and engaging stage presence, which helps make his live performances memorable. In addition to playing blues harp, Sugar Ray also sings and his repertoire displays wide-ranging influences not only from the world of the blues, but also from R&B, soul, country, and pop.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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