Former bassist for Elvis and music legend Norbert Putnam visited The University of Southern Mississippi Jan. 23-24 to speak with students in the School of Mass Communication and Journalism.
Putnam has joined the school as a distinguished lecturer in the recording industry program.
According to the Southern Miss website, Christopher Campbell, the school’s director, said Putnam will be visiting a lot more in the future.
“(Putnam) has agreed to visit on a regular basis to conduct master classes for our students,” Campbell said.
“He’s taken a real interest in our recording industry program, and he will be an amazing resource for the students and faculty.”
Sophomore recording industry production major Emily Evans said she loves to meet people who have real world experience in her field.
“The instructors in the music industry department always do a great job about bringing in people that have real world experience so that the students can get advice from people that have been successful,” Evans said.
“It is always an eye-opening experience to hear from these people because it gives students reason to believe that if they work hard, they can eventually have a fulfilling career in the industry.”
Evans said she got a lot out of Putnam’s lecture.
“Mr. Putnam is such a quick witted individual and he had so much advice to give,” Evans said.
“Something that stuck with me the most was when he told us to always appreciate the talent that we were privileged enough to work with and to never try to change that talent these artists bring to the table.”
Evans added she was honored to sit down with him and hear his stories.
“He has such a great attitude about his life and his experiences, but I mean, it’s not hard when you get to talk about working with Elvis Presley and Jimmy Buffett,” Evans said.
“I genuinely realized after about an hour of listening to him speak that I had not moved my eyes from his face a single time. I was riveted for the entire time he spoke and never even looked at my watch or anything.”
Junior entertainment industry management major Connor Holland said he is excited to have Putnam visit regularly.
“Having Norbert Putnam coming and visiting the school every now and then to teach us what he knows is a wonderful thing,” Holland said.
“This first visit was just so that we could get to know him, but I look forward to running recording sessions and learning from him first hand.”
Holland said Putnam’s advice was helpful.
“There is only so much about our industry that one can learn from a textbook,” Holland said.
“Having (Putnam) here will help give us a great advantage for successful careers.“
Holland said Putnam is very successful and his advice will lead to success in the recording industry department.
“My impression of him is that he is an incredibly smart man, but he is also an incredibly wise man,” Holland said.
“He doesn’t just know what to do, he knows how to do it and that is how he became so successful. I believe having him around as a normal visitor in the program will lead to many successful careers.”
Putnam said his professional career began and always comes back to Elvis Presley.
“I became a musician because some local kids formed a band to play Elvis’s music. And they chose me to be the bass player because my father had the instrument – no one else had an acoustic bass. So without Elvis, they would have never formed that band and I would have never been chosen,” Putnam said.
Shortly after, Putnam began to play bass on Elvis Presley recordings.
“So then later on in my 20’s I started to play with Elvis in the studio and loved the guy. He was great, he was just a good human being and really appreciated great players,” Putnam said.
“But ultimately, Elvis was the beginning of my life, he was there in the middle and I traveled around the world playing bass with his band here towards the end. So, it always comes back to my relationship with Elvis.”
Putnam is a bassist-producer who has worked with artists such as Elvis Presley, Neil Young, Michael Jackson and Joan Baez.
In 1977, Putnam produced Southern Miss alumnus Jimmy Buffett’s album, “Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude,” which contained the single “Margaritaville” which sold between 30-50 million copies.
For more information, contact Christopher Campbell at 601.266.4258.