The performing career of this historic jazz multi-instrumentalist lasted a good six decades, but Norman Mason's musical life began even ten years earlier when his father began teaching him trumpet. Mason was a ripe eight years old at the time and still living in the Bahamas, where he grew up. American audiences began enjoying his performances when at the age of 18 Mason began touring with the Rabbit Foot Minstrel Show. Like many of his contemporaries, this form of entertainment led to involvement with the New Orleans jazz scene; later, Mason added reeds to his instrumental arsenal and became associated with jazz bands in both Chicago and St. Louis. His brother Henry Mason was a professional trumpeter as well.
Slightly before the '20s started roaring, Mason began gigging with Fate Marable, the context in which he switched from trumpet to alto saxophone. In the early '20s he was part of Ed Allen's poetically named Whispering Gold Band but was also active as a bandleader in his own right, fronting the Carolina Melodists, a group that may have been melodic but were not actually from the Carolinas, North or South. Mason returned to Marable's group for six years beginning in 1927. During the early '30s he began moving between St. Louis and Chicago and became known more as a clarinet player. The final decades of his career were spent in the former city, concluding when a stroke shut him down as a musician in 1969. Up until then his main association was with bandleader Singleton Palmer. He should not be confused with the more recent pianist of the same name who has recorded and performed with Latin jazz bands.