Taco Bout It: Norman
by Taco Olmstead
“You know man, you look out there, and you see all these faces. Everybody is expecting something, so when I play, I try to, ya know, capture those feelings, those thoughts, that energy. Because when you can grab that energy, and put it back out there as music, it’s like that moment just lives forever.”~ Norman Dimitrouleas 9/22/12 Legend Valley, Ohio
People didn’t have to tell you when Norman was around, he made sure you knew, that’s just how he was. There was an ease about him and for those of us with adventure in our soul, he found a way to push the envelope with you.
The first time I met Norman there was an immediate bond. I don’t feel unique by saying this, he seemingly affected every person in his life in this manner. He was a musician and a showman, brimming with chutzpah and charisma, he was the biggest thing in the room. He was wearing a leather coat, a gold chain and rings and his smile was contagious. We ended the night, after a brilliant performance, with Irish Aspirins and a great session of story telling.
I’ll never forget walking into a back stage area at The Werk Out where Norm was holding the attention of a group of strangers. He saw me coming, stopped everything, grabbed me by the arm and introduced me, “Hey, this is Taco! Taco, smile for a minute! When he smiles the room just lights up!” So I smiled, not because he asked me too, but because you just couldn’t help it when you were around him. There was a magic that just floated around him and it was intoxicating to the point where you also felt like none of the laws of the universe applied to you. If a kid with Cerebral Palsy could grow up and play the keys as well as Norm, you could certainly find a way to have a few more shots and still wake up on time.
When The Werks were playing The National in Richmond, I of course showed up. I remember stepping onto the bus and Donald, their tour manager at the time shot me a look and said “You are not allowed to drink with Norman before the show”. Norman and I looked at each other and giggled. Norman then invited me outside for a cigarette, which then led to the inside of a bar drinking Irish Aspirin, and keep in mind the bar was directly in front of the bus. There was a huge window so it’s not like he was stealthy, instead he waved hello sarcastically to the band as we laughed and chugged our drinks! Would I have ever done this with anyone else? Not in a million years, but Norm made me feel like nothing else mattered, you were with him and for that moment, time stopped and that great feeling he gave you was like the gravity holding this world together.
There, amidst the chatter and roar of the party, Norman also had this sweet, quiet, childlike demeanor. I can recall sneaking off with him several times, just to play piano, work on a song he was writing, or simply talk about life, the music and everything in between. It was in these moments when you felt a vulnerability, it was a mutual feeling of intimacy, the kind you only find in a friendship born of struggle, but it was easy. That’s just how Norman was, he just made you feel like you were the only thing he had going on. He was beautiful.
I recall being introduced to Todd Stoops by Norm. It was a great night, it was my birthday so I couldn’t have felt more honored. Their friendship and showmanship together was enough to make most any music fan blush. I caught up with Stoops shortly after he got off Jam Cruise and asked him if he had anything he would like to say about Norm, he told me this:
“I met Norman Dimitrouleas and the rest of the Werks on March 1, 2012 at the Blockley Music Club in Philadelphia. We were on night one of a 6 night run with them, we were late for load in, and the Werks were already set up and had begun their soundcheck. Norman had his shirt off, wearing two or three gold chains, and was banging away at the keys wearing different golden rings on almost all of his fingers. It was amazing. I made my way to the side of the stage to introduce myself and Norm immediately stopped playing and jumped up, shook my hand, gave me a hug and introduced himself – he was like Elton John met Doctor John with a thick accent that was more Tennessee than it was Ohio – I asked him about the rings he was wearing and he answered in that thick accent “Well man… You know you need to look good while you play!!” – I answered him with “Did we just became friends for life my guy???” And we did. Norman and I would end up spending most of that tour together, and there are some of the funniest stories (that I can’t repeat here) of my life embedded in the memories of that first tour, and we just built upon them whenever we got to spend time together afterwards. Norman lit up a room when he entered it. He wasn’t the life of the party, he was the party. He would often call me to talk about life and music and the balance of family/career, and we would go on for hours about it – He was proud of his daughter and so very excited for the birth of his son and what the future held for both of them – as painful as his loss is for me, I am very thankful that Norman became part of my life and I, along with many people, will remember him always.”
I also made sure to touch base with Norman’s longtime friends and band mates, Chris Houser:
“Anyone who met Norman, fell in love with him. He knew how to light a room up, he had a real zest for life. Nobody knew how to have a better time than him, he just burned so bright and fast. Norman will live forever in our hearts and we are all better for for knowing him and having him grace our lives”.
“Words simply cannot describe how special Norman Dimitrouleas was. He treated everyone like they were his best friend from the moment he met them, one of the most caring and loving spirits the world has ever seen. The overflowing amount of support and love flowing in from everyone truly shows how great of a man Norman was, his spirit will always live on in all of us.”
And, perhaps the most important words to be written here are from Dino Dimitrouleas:
“They say that the brightest lights always burn out the fastest and there was no brighter light than my brother, Norman Dimitrouleas. Norman didn’t have the word “stranger” in his vocabulary and every person he ever met quickly became his best friend. He was the guy everyone always wanted to be around because of the joy he brought into everyone’s lives just by being next to him. I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of memories and stories of all the lives he influenced in his short time on this earth. When you hear of musicians passing you mostly only hear about how their music touched lives but Norman not only impressed people musically, he personally affected every person he ever met.
Rest in peace Norman. You were my brother and my best friend. I love you more than words can say and I’m proud of the man you were and the legacy you left behind. You truly were too good for this world.”
Sometimes we meet people, and they leave us and we occasionally remember them. Sometimes, an angel flies too close to this earth and stays with us awhile. Inevitably, this world can’t keep what never belonged to it, and it doesn’t take long before that Angel hears their homecoming. The light they leave behind though, it is divine and it is eternal. That light for Norman, was the music he left behind for us, so we could always hear his soul.
Friend, Brother, Father, Son, Player, Songwriter and Confidant…
Norman Paraskevas Dimitrouleas
3/2/82 – 1/9/16