A pterodactyl was a flyin fool
Just a breeze flappin daddy of the old school
But a mama dactyl could sure make him drool
Aaaaah - eee - yaaah!

There's been a couple of artists trying to rhyme and wax lyrically over music: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Klaus Kinski and, er, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five and every rapper ever since. So, nothing new about speech on music, right? Well, one bloke did this successfully already in the early fifties, even before Elvis started to drool over innocent microphones: Jimmy Drake, alias "Nervous Norvus", had 2 hits in 1956 that endeared him so much to the world that his music is still around on compilations, played on the radio and, of course, inspiring millions of rap artists (just kidding).

His beginnings were rather humble: Born in 1912 in Memphis, Tenessee he developed chronic asthma that forced his family to move to California. After High School he got knocked about a bit, worked in the docks and for the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal work program. He appeared to have released a couple of 78 rpm records in the forties, but he really hit the big time when he recorded a number of novelty records inspired by his favourite Jazz Musician, a jazz trombonist called Red Blanchard. The song was played on the radio by DJ Barry Hansen, which reportedly led to Hansen's eventual nickname of Dr. Demento. Hansen plugged his records, and hey presto: "Transfusion" (released by Dot Records) sold half a million records in 2 weeks and reached Nr. 8 with rhymes like:

I took a little drink and Im feelin right
I can fly right over everything everything in sight
Theres a slow poking cat Im gonna pass him on the right-

Transfusion transfusion
Im a real gone paleface and thats no illusion
Ima never never never gonna speed again
Pass the claret to me Barrett

This was no Usher: Jimmy Drake used a Bariton Ukulele and one single sound effect (the screaming of tires) was used. That was it. Thanks to his drawl and bizarre lyrics, "Transfusion" and the follow-up Ape Call became big hits but unfortunately Drake was not able to come up with any more classics (he was also notoriously shy and refused to appear on the Ed Sullivan show), so he had to go back to his earlier job: when not driving a truck, he would record demos for aspiring songwriters (like himself) on his second-hand piano in the spare bedroom. After that details about the life of Nervous Norvus are getting sparse.

On July 24, 1968, Jimmy Drake died, age 56, in an Alameda County hospital, of liver cirrhoisis. His body was donated to the University of California Anatomy Department.


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