Song Of The Week: “Transfusion” by Nervous Norvus

Some songs are obvious hits. Some are …. more opaque.

In 1953, 41 year-old truck driver Jimmy Drake suddenly decided to get into the music game. (Sure, why not? Dream big.) He bought himself a used piano and signed up for a correspondence course in musical notation. After learning enough of the basics to read the notes, he quit after a few lessons, bought himself a baritone ukulele and a reel to reel tape recorder, and began writing songs.

Drake published one of his songs in a music magazine, but instead of receiving offers, he received requests – to record demos by other amateur songwriters to send in to record companies. It certainly paid better than driving a truck, and he went on to sing and record thousands of demos over the next decade, all from his living room. And all the while, he kept plugging along with his own tunes.

In 1956, a newspaper story about a bad car accident inspired Drake to write a darkly-humored little ditty about the perils of speeding, called “Transfusion.” He mailed the simple demo to his favorite late-night DJ in Los Angeles and almost immediately received a response. The DJ added a sound effect of a car crashing and began playing “Transfusion” on his radio show. That’s when Dot Records called with an offer to distribute the single nationally.

A couple of months later, “Transfusion” was a Top 10 hit under the name Nervous Norvus. The song might have climbed to the top of the charts had it not been banned by ABC and NBC radio for being too gruesome.

So here’s Nervous Norvus (aka Jimmy Drake) with his weird, wordplaying tale of intravenous excitement. Put the plasma in my vein, Jane!

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