In 1990, Norman returned to Boise, Idaho to assist his elderly parents. A prospective job in Grants Pass, Oregon had turned out to be another pot at the end of the rainbow and after a bleak year, Norman left. During his Oregon stay, he hosted his first all-blues show on Medford station KBOY and he soon found a station in Boise, willing to sell him a three hour block of time for blues on Sunday morning.
Thus was born the Sunday Brunch Blues, a show that found a friendly audience in a town that had very little prior exposure to the blues on the radio. After a year, Norman heard from a friend that a station in Long Beach was looking for a blues host. The station was KLON and it was heard throughout L.A. and around the world on satellite.
Norman submitted his resume and was asked to fly down for a look-over. KLON management decided to hire Norman to produce and host their two, four-hour blues shows, "Nothin' But The Blues" on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. In order for him to make a living wage, they also paid him to produce two jazz shows weekly for their cable affiliate, Eurojazz, which broadcast on cable to parts of Europe.
The audience seemed to like Norman and the shows did well for about nine months. Norman hustled some ads in national blues magazines and built up the somewhat depleted KLON blues library. He presented several artists live in the studio including Popa Chubby and Becky Barksdale. He interviewed John Mayall, Honeyboy Edwards, Hubert Sumlin and other blues luminaries and he hosted the most successful show during pledge week in the station's history, raising $10,000 in one afternoon.
The promotion director at the station was a large, black woman who was hostile to Norman from day one. She was apparently angry that the station had fired the previous host, Bubba Jackson--a black DJ, and replaced him with a white DJ. She never smiled at Norman and was abrupt and unfriendly to him whenever they crossed paths.
Norman had an intern, Jesse, who came in during the show and helped pull requests, file records and generally help out. He was a big blues fan and Norman allowed him to bring in a few tracks each week that he would put in the show. One weekend, Jesse brought in a Willie Nelson album. Now Willie isn't known as a bluesman, but he is quite familiar with the blues and he had recorded a Willie Dixon song on this album which the intern requested.
Norman had some misgivings about playing it, knowing he had a large black audience, but he went ahead and was about halfway through the track when he got a call from a very unhappy black listener.
"What is that you're playin'?" he demanded in a rich dialect. Norman explained that it was Willie Nelson singing Willie Dixon and the caller exploded. "We don't want no Willie Nillie on the blues show!" he shouted along with a few other angry words. Norman laughed it off and went on with the show. The next day, he was discussing the call with his intern in the studio and mimicked the caller in fun.
A few days later, he received a memo from the manager, notifying him that a charge of discrimination had been filed against him by a member of the staff. Sure enough, it was the promotion director, who had apparently been walking down the hall and heard the mimicked voice and decided that what she heard was discriminatory.
Norman was called to a meeting with the management person in charge of such things. The promotion director was not called in. The charges were that Norman had made fun of black people with his imitation, and that he had referred to black people as "folks". Norman explained what happened and denied any discrimination of any kind. In fact, as someone who had always supported integration and opposed segregation, he was astonished and ashamed to find himself tarnished with this charge. The management representative accepted his explanation and said that would be the end of it, but it was not.
From that day on, Norman was unable to contact the station manager. She refused to see him or return his calls and sent her program director to tell Norman that his two jazz shows were cancelled. This cut his salary below living expenses and made it impossible for him to continue at KLON. Apparently management was afraid to fire him for fear of more discrimination charges, so they isolated him, broke their word to pay him enough to live on and waited for him to quit, which he did a few weeks later.
After initially being upset, Norman decided that fate had actually done him a favor. Like most Northern Californians, he had always thought that L.A. sucked and his eleven months there had proved it. He was glad to pack up and head north again.