By Sherrie Norris
The Kody Norris Show has done it again. The energetic, entertaining four-member country/ bluegrass band with local roots swept away some of the music industry’s most coveted awards during the 2024 Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass for America held last week at the Sheraton Music City Hotel in Nashville.
“I feel like I have woken up in a dream, but thankfully it wasn’t,” Norris shared on Monday morning. “Last night has blown us away. We love bluegrass music and everything it stands for. We send a big thank you out to SPBGMA for keeping this event moving forward, the good Lord above, our team, our families and most definitely, our fans.”
The band claimed Entertainer of the Year, Instrumental Group of the Year, Album of the Year (Rhinestone Revival), Song of the Year ( I Call Her Sunshine), and Band (overall) of the Year. Additionally, Mary Rachel Nalley-Norris was named Fiddle Performer of the Year and Josiah Tyree won Banjo Performer of the Year.
“I’m so happy for our band and everything we have accomplished in the last year,” Norris added. “This is a heck of a way to kick off 2024 and we are so honored.”
Mary Rachel Nalley-Norris added, “It’s always an honor to be included in the nominations, but to take home the trophy is a dream-come-true. I remember coming to SPBGMA when I was a lot younger and just dreaming of being on that stage. I’m so happy I get to do that with my best friends and am sincerely honored!”
For Josiah Tyre, it was also “an absolute honor and a long-time dream” to come out on top as Banjo Performer of the Year. “SPBGMA is an essential part of why I play music today,” he said. “A big thank you to each and every person that has played a role in my career to this point.”
Other 2024 SPBGMA winners included:
Bluegrass Promoter Of The Year – Ernie Evans
Bluegrass Radio Station Of The Year – The Bluegrass Jamboree
Bluegrass DJ Of The Year – Kyle Cantrell
Bluegrass Songwriter Of The Year – Donna Ulisse
Bass fiddle Performer Of The Year – Edgar Loudermilk
Dobro Performer Of The Year – Gaven Largent
Guitar Performer Of The Year – Kenny Smith
Mandolin Performer Of The Year – Alan Bibey
Female Vocalist Of The Year – Rhonda Vincent
Male Vocalist Of The Year – Russell Moore
Gospel Group Of The Year – Authentic Unlimited
The Kody Norris Show had an exciting 2023, touring the United States and Australia, making their Grand Ole Opry debut, and opening for The Queen of Bluegrass, Rhonda Vincent, at The Ryman Auditorium. Continuing their momentum, they recently signed with Joey Crawford and Upper Management Talent for exclusive booking representation.
“From the moment, Mary Rachel and I met with Joey, we knew it was the route we wanted to take,” Norris explained. “Joey cares about making the best deal not only for The Kody Norris Show, but also for the venue. He wants everyone to prosper. We look forward to many years of working with Joey and Upper Management Talent.”
With a busy tour schedule — and getting busier by the day —The Kody Norris Show was featured on High Country Radio’s live Catguts N’ Jugs show the week before the big wins and appeared on the most recent segment of Huckabee, Feb. 3 and 4, taped Feb. 2 at the Hendersonville, Tenn. Studio; the next day, they were closer to home at the Song of the Mountains show in Marion, Va. with Tim White and The Malpass Brothers. From there, the band will be from coast to coast in the upcoming months, coming back “home” for the Bristol Bluegrass Spring Festival in Bristol, Va. on April 5, before heading back out to Florida the next day.
On May 18, they will roll back into town for a show at Heritage Hall in Mountain City, Tenn., before shows in Branson, Mo.
High Country Roots Run Deep For Kody Norris
It comes as no surprise to those of us who have followed Kody Norris since his early days performing on local stages in and around the High Country, that he was destined for great things. During last year’s SPBGMA, and especially this year, he proved that we were right, all along.
Fans of bluegrass music know, and especially those who love traditional bluegrass, that the Kody Norris Show has been gaining energy and industry attention in recent years. Norris’s candid interviews and features in various publications, including Bluegrass Unlimited, have allowed the public to see just who he is on stage and behind the scenes — and that he never gave up his dream of becoming a star, despite obstacles along the way.
Anyone who has ever experienced The Kody Norris Show, understands that the group fits well within the mission of SPBGMA and is more than deserving of the recognition. He’s all about keeping bluegrass traditional in every sense of the word — from his style of playing to his stage presence decked out in rhinestones much of the time.
SPBGMA recognizes those musicians annually who not only strive to preserve the traditional spirit and art form of bluegrass music, but also, like the Norris act, encourages professionalism in appearance and showmanship. He fits the bill, easily enough.
Winning these awards is no small feat for a young boy who got his start right here in the High Country. But, it hasn’t changed him one bit, he said.
Norris, himself, has come a long way from playing for local fundraisers, church and community gatherings around the High Country.
A resident of Mountain City, Tenn., he was born in Boone, and has deep family ties in Western Watauga County.
He has received a lot of encouragement and support through the years, he said, from several fellow musicians and fans in the area, all for which he remains extremely grateful.
In an earlier interview with High Country Press, Norris mentioned numerous fellow entertainers and mentors in the area who have had an impact upon his life and career.
“When I first started playing and getting serious about music, it was through The Sounds of Bluegrass – which included local men like Hal Main, Clay Moody and Bill Taylor, who encouraged me a lot. Then, there was Tim Norris and Tom Isaacs, who I started playing with as I really began to lay a foundation in music. We played all around the region and went as far as Knoxville. Once or twice a year, we would play the Pig Pickin’ at Stewart Simmons Fire Department in Deep Gap. That was important to us and something we really enjoyed.”
Other local venues, too, where he and Isaacs played —including Mast Store and Southern Sideboards Cafeteria in Boone Mall — will always hold special memories for him.
“I also played with (the late) Hoyt Combs, who was really good to me and taught me a lot. He could play anything and could sing all the parts. I learned a lot from him.”
Norris said he got his “first decent guitar and mandolin” from Paul Graybeal, the area’s late great luthier. “He could get more sound out of a guitar than anyone I ever knew.”
Norris remembers well his annual treks to Merlefest as a youngster, with Hal Main and Graybeal.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but those two helped open a lot of doors for me. They helped me make connections, even then, that have paid off through the years.”
Playing several fiddlers conventions together one year, in particular, helped Norris and Isaacs realize they had a “pretty good sound,” he said; the two were quite versatile and were able to “switch back and forth” on their instruments.
“Tom would often get asked to fill in with a group somewhere and he would always try to work me in, too, usually on the banjo. We really had something special together.”
They’ve filled in for the likes of Ralph Stanley II, and from there, they started their own band, Kody Norris and Tom Isaacs and the Watauga Mountain Boys.
“We began to get booked up and down the east coast, into the Midwest, and even to Wisconsin,” Norris recalled. “By that time, Tom had already made up his mind to go to college and pursue a regular career. I didn’t know what I wanted to do exactly, but I knew I wanted to play music. Tom continued with us for a while, but slowly began to transition out of the band. I took over most of the responsibilities and eventually rebranded to Kody Norris and the Watauga Mountain Boys. I knew I couldn’t recreate what Tom and I had, so I had to hone in on a new sound and do things my own way.”
To this day, Norris said, he and Isaacs could go on any stage and never miss a beat. “We played so much music together and always knew what the other one was thinking. We had a chemistry that can never be replaced.”
The two have remained great friends through the years, Norris said. “Mary Rachel and I were blessed to have him and his wife, Sydeena, in our wedding in 2019.”
With the new sound, also came the new look, Norris said. “Tom and I always dressed real sharp in western suits, ties and hats, but then I brought on the rhinestone suits.”
Norris admits that he was “still young, just 21 at the time,” and knew what he wanted to do, but wasn’t sure just how to do it.
“It wasn’t always easy for me at that age to be a band leader and a boss,” he said. “I had ups and downs. All the good musicians at that time were older, seasoned musicians. I pushed on and persevered the best I could. I never gave up.”
Things began to turn around for Norris, he said, when Mary Rachel came on the scene and “breathed some new life into the band” — and into his personal life, as well.
“She helped tremendously with the business aspect,” he described. “She really helped bring it all full circle with my booking and online marketing. She’s a pro at all that, which allows me to put more focus on the music, where it needs to be. She became someone I could lean on, both professionally and personally, and really helped us get a good crew together.”
And about that crew, Norris said, he’s got the best, which also includes Tyree on banjo, and cousin Charlie Lowman on the bass.
Tim Norris, who owns Castleford Studios in Boone, is another individual who has played a big part in his career, Norris shared. “That’s another Norris I’m not related to, but he’s been such a good friend to me through the years and has always been there for me when I’ve needed him. He’s a true pro at what he does, one of the best in the business. I don’t care what I’ve needed — recording, mixing, sound equipment, whatever, he’s never let me down. “
And J.M. Trivette, he said, has been a great friend, too. “He’s always been uplifting to me. When I’ve been down at times, he’d tell me to hang in there. I don’t forget that.”
And just as others have mentored him through the years, Norris said, he loves to help younger musicians. “I really want to get in there and help, because I know what it’s like.”
Norris recalled his childhood days, when his dad took him to Slagle’s Pasture in Elizabethton, Tennessee for music festivals. “They would always have the big boys over there and I loved it,” he said.
And among his greatest inspirations? Jimmy Martin and Ralph Stanley.
While some may compare his style to that of Martin, Norris is quick to say. “When I walk out on that stage, I don’t try to copy anyone; I’m doing all I can to do me. When people come to see the Kody Norris Show, I want them to make a memory and take me home with them.
If you do your job, you won’t lose them, they will stay with you.”
While he admits that he has a lot of fun with it, it’s still a business that he takes seriously. “My boys are slick- shaved. We’ve got a crease in our pants and our shirts are starched. I’ve kept it that way and I always will.”
We asked during that earlier interview, where does he see himself 10 years from now?
“I hope I’m still doing what I’m doing right now. In fact, I’d love to still be doing this at 85, still playing for my fans as long as they’ll let me. And we all have that dream of The Grand Ol’ Opry. I would love to have that on my resume one of these days.”
And, in 2023, that dream came true, as well, with their debut on that historic stage. Something tells us that won’t be the last time, either.
In the meantime, the band is spending a lot of time in the recording studio, filling an even busier schedule on the road in its big red bus and looking forward to more overseas tours.
The Kody Norris Show’s album All Suited Up (2021) charted at #7, and Rhinestone Revival (2023) at #8 on the Billboard charts. Their trademarked high-energy style delivers an unrivaled live show experience. In 2023, the band made its Ryman Auditorium, Grand Ole Opry, and live SiriusXM debuts. Rife with rhinestones, loaded with laughs, and a heaping helping of high-powered traditional music, The Kody Norris Show is truly one of a kind.
The boy who got his start in these hills has come a long way, for sure.
To stay up-to-date on The Kody Norris Show, find The Kody Norris Show on Facebook or visit www.thekodynorrisshow.com.