Norma Waterson first came to prominence with her siblings Michael (Mike) and Elaine (Lal) Waterson, with their second cousin John Harrison. Both sides of Norma's family were musical and almost all of her extended family were accomplished musicians. Partly of Irish gipsy descent, like thousands of others they came to folk song through an early interest in jazz and skiffle. They formed a group called The Mariners and, as their style became progressively less 'pop' and more serious, they decided to start a folk club calling themselves The Folksons before finally using their family name. Their abiding interest was in the songs and customs of their native East Yorkshire.
The Watersons' first album, Frost and Fire, was released in 1965. After two more records in 1966, The Watersons and A Yorkshire Garland, Johh Harrison left the group and moved to London. The Watersons split up in 1968 and Norma left England to work as a DJ in the West Indies. The family came together again four years later and Martin Carthy joined the reformed Watersons in 1972, making a permanent family commitment by marrying Norma in the same year.
The last three Watersons recordings, For Pence and Spicy Ale (1975), Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy (1977), and Green Fields (1981) all featured Norma with Mike, Lal and Martin Carthy. In 1977, Norma and Lal recorded the duo album A True Hearted Girl.
In the early 1990s, Norma joined forces with Martin Carthy and their daughter, Eliza and began touring, first of all as the Carthy Family and then as Waterson:Carthy. The first CD Waterson:Carthy came out in 1994 and Common Tongue followed in 1996. In the same year, Norma released the solo album Norma Waterson with a backing band including Martin and Eliza Carthy. This album finished a close second to Pulp for the Mercury Music Prize.
Norma’s recent recording output has been prolific. The Very Thought of You, was released in 1999 and the traditional Bright Shiny Morning was issued in 2000. She has also featured on the three recent Waterson:Carthy albums, Broken Ground (1999), A Dark Light (2002), and Fishes & Fine Yellow Sand (2004). Norma has worked with brother Mike Waterson, Martin and Eliza Carthy and Barry Coope, Jim Boyes and Lester Simpson as “Blue Murder”, recording their first CD, No One Stands Alone, in 2002.
Norma Waterson was awarded the MBE in the New Year’s Honours List of 2003 and, as a consequence, she achieved a lifetime ambition by appearing on the front page of The Yorkshire Post.