Nervous Norvus


Nervous Norvus was the performing name of Jimmy Drake (1912 in the Oakwood district of Los Angeles, California – July 24, 1968). His novelty song "Transfusion" was a major hit in 1956, as was a second song, "Ape Call," released later that year.

The lyrics in his song called "Transfusion" concern careless drivers who (cheerfully) receive blood transfusions after each accident. Graphic sounds of a car crash are included after each verse. Each stanza concludes with the refrain "Never never never gonna speed again" followed by lines such as "Slip the blood to me, Bud" or "Pour the crimson in me, Jimson." The song was banned on many radio stations of the '50s. The song was later played on the radio by DJ Barry Hansen, which reportedly led to Hansen's eventual nickname of Dr. Demento. A car crash sound effect from this song can be heard on "Dead Man's Curve" by Jan and Dean.

The song received a review from an unlikely source — personal-injury lawyer Melvin Belli — in his 1956 book Ready for the Plaintiff!, in which he says: "The ghoulish lyrics hiccup hysterically" but "wind up with a gem of jive-y wisdom that is strictly in the groove: 'Oh, barnyard drivers are found in two classes / Line-crowding hogs and speeding jackasses / So remember to slow down today!'" There was irony too, as Drake was employed as a truck driver, prior to his recording fame arising.

Nervous Norvus was born before World War I started, and was over 40 by the time he had his two hit singles in 1956. His records were made with input from radio personality Red Blanchard, to whom he was sending demos in the hope of finding an artist to record them. Blanchard had been an influence, particularly with the "jive" language employed in the lyrics.

After his brief time of glory, which amounted to less than six months, he concentrated on his demo service, providing music for other people's songs. He would charge around seven dollars to make these demos, some of which led to publishing contracts for the songwriters.

Contrary to popular belief, Drake was never a member of the Four Jokers. He was very shy and even turned down a chance to perform "Transfusion" on the Ed Sullivan Show. After a final single on the Dot record label ("The Fang" b/w "Bullfrog Hop"), the artist had his contract dropped. He only recorded sporadically thereafter for a series of independent labels like Embee ("Stoneage Woo" b/w "I Like Girls") and Big Ben, up to 1960. Nervous Norvus died in 1968 of cirrhosis of the liver, aged 56. A CD including hits and rare tracks, Stone Age Woo, was released by Norton Records in 2004. "Transfusion" also appears on Kenny Everetts' "The World's Worst record Show" (K-Tel label 1978).

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George Cates links


Buy Stone Age Woo on Amazon.com
The Many Mysteries of Nervous Norvus
Nervous Norvus and the Afterlife of the One-Hit Wonder
Nervous Norvus @ WFMU.org

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Nervous Norvus - Stone Age Woo

Nervous Norvus - Transfusion

Nervous Norvus - The Fang

Nervous Norvus - Ape Call