Rhythm & Views 

Nervous Norvus

Nervous Norvus (aka Jimmy Drake) was a pure, unadulterated songwriting genius. Who the hell was Nervous Norvus, you may be asking? He was a former truck driver from Memphis who utilized his kitchen as a makeshift studio to record a dump-truck load of novelty jive patois for Dot Records, including the morally lurid, chart-smashing "Transfusion" (it sold a half-million copies and leveled off at No. 8 on the Billboard charts) in 1956. This eternal masterpiece in tastelessness concerns assorted ill-fated casualties of car wrecks (punctuated with ear-piercing car crash sound affects), each vehicular accident illustrated in rhyming couplets and targeted by a horrific verse regarding the outcome--a blood transfusion.

But the obscure career of Nervous Norvus did not end with "Transfusion." The profoundly bashful singer/songwriter/ukulele player who melded rock 'n' roll, rockabilly and vaudeville is celebrated on this exhaustive 33-track retrospective (which includes homemade demos and unreleased master tapes) of rhyming white-trash rap dissimilar to anything heard before. "Dig" is a jive-talking monologue of life as a hipster ("D-I-G means you know the score, so dig, dig, dig and dig some more."), "Ape Call" is an elegy to the sexual appetites of cavemen and jungle beasts, and the rapper's delight, "The Fang," concerns a horny alien who lands on Earth in search of poontang ("I'm gonna hit these chicks like a Martian jolt. 'Cuz I'm a red-hot daddy with a thousand volts"). Some singers have a way with a phrase, but none quite like the speak-singing poetry of Nervous Norvus, one of the unsung heroes of rock 'n' roll.

More by Ron Bally


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