• The Essential Norman Thrasher
  • The Essential Norman Thrasher

The Essential Norman Thrasher


One of six children, Norman Thrasher was born on June 4, 1933. From humble beginnings, his stage talent and style led to performing with a variety of talent including Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, Barry White, Bo Diddley, and The Spinners. Among his many musical contributions, Thrasher is credited with creating and teaching Chubby Checker “The Twist” in 1958. As a part of the Midnighters, Thrasher received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's prestigious Pioneer Award in 1992 and was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2012, the group was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame by Smokey Robinson and, three years later, into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame.

The sultry baritone began busking in the early 1950s with the Detroit Serenaders and The Royal Jokers, crooning catty-corner from a group then going by the name The Four Ames, later The Four Tops. He enjoyed his greatest popularity as the bass singer for Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, noted for achieving a music industry milestone in 1960 by becoming the first group in history to place 3 singles in the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time. They were also notable for launching the worldwide dance craze the Twist. Between 1953 and 1962 the Midnighters had several hits on the U.S. pop and R&B charts. Their hits included the million-selling Billboard top-10 pop songs “Finger Poppin’ Time,” for which they received a 1961 Grammy Award nomination, and “Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go.” The Midnighters also had 13 top-10 R&B hits, including three that reached number 1, including “Work with Me, Annie,” “It's Love Baby (24 Hours a Day),” “Annie Had a Baby,” “The Hoochi Coochi Coo,” “Teardrops on Your Letter,” “Get It,” “The Float," and “Nothing but Good.”

Thrasher later expanded his career by becoming road manager for singer Joe Tex and assisting in the promotion of Muhammad Ali’s last professional fight. Thrasher continued serving the entertainment industry as music executive for major record labels nationally while operating his own public relations agency. In 1981, Thrasher moved back to Detroit, where he became a Monday night classic on channel 6,

showcasing his musical talents and spotlighting the blues and managed The Spinners. He served as a member of the city of Detroit Entertainment Commission. Adding to his distinguished legacy, the Detroit City Council posthumously presented him with the Spirit of Detroit Award proclaiming, “for over five decades, he was known as a genius in the music business.”

A dedicated member of the Nation of Islam for over 60 years, Thrasher attended Mosque No. 1 in Detroit and was one of the most consistent soldiers within the Fruit of Islam. For 65 years, Thrasher was a close personal friend of Minister Louis Farrakhan, and, at the request of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, they both came out of show business to dedicate their lives to the propagation of Islam. Every time Thrasher visited Farrakhan’s Michigan farm, he’d sing Louis Armstrong’s classic, “What a Wonderful World” for Farrakhan and his wife, Mother Khadijah. Farrakhan related the song “not to this evil world we’re fighting to overcome but the ‘Wonderful World’ that Allah (in the Person of Master Fard Muhammad) came to establish.” 

This archive represents both the musical and spiritual sides of Thrasher’s life. It contains 7 boxes of material: 43 broadcast videos, 23 master reels, 35 VHS tapes, 10 DVDs, 148 newspapers, 14 audiocassettes, 4 books, 2 small framed photographs. 1 CD, and 1 article of clothing. By and large, the VHS tapes and DVDs are recordings of addresses given by Farrakhan or some other leader of the NOI. The broadcast videos, on the other hand, are largely tapings of his local television show, Norman Thrasher and Friends, or other performances. The master reels include songs such as “Can I Romance You,” “Don’t Take Your Love from Me,” “Have I Told You Lately,” “5AM,” “Slow Glow,” and “Til the Real Thing,” among others. The newspapers are runs of The Final Call, Muslim Journal, and American Muslim Journal. The piece de resistance of the collection is a cotton candy pink and white sport coat with black lapels that Thrasher wore on stage. All in all, a fine small archive from this man of faith and music.