The life and legacy of Wilmington’s jazz ‘Scatman’ Billy Norwood

Some called him “The Scatman.” Others knew him as “Billy Hipp.”

With his iconic white beard, creative scat performances and love of all things music, Marion “Billy” Norwood was a cornerstone of Wilmington’s jazz scene.

Whether through his friendship with the legendary Clifford Brown or his mentorship of contemporary local jazz musicians, Norwood’s impact on his beloved city will continue to be felt for years to come.

“He was a blessing to everybody,” said local jazz trumpeter Gerald Chavis.

Marion "Billy" Norwood performed at his surprise 75th birthday party at Christina Cultural Arts Center.

Chavis said he was fortunate enough to have Norwood’s help and encouragement as he developed his sound as a musician. Norwood always came to his shows – even last month while in the hospital, Norwood tried to discharge himself to see Chavis perform live.

“He’s the guy that you would try to emulate in life,” Chavis said.

Chavis described Norwood as funny, insightful and “sharp as a tack.” All of Norwood’s lessons – both on life and on jazz – now live inside him.

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