When Norma Barrington decided she might be interested in music, she asked her teenage son Gary to pick her up an instrument.
He picked up a Fender bass for $50 at Sunset-West Department Store and she began plucking away.
For the next 20 years, she was in the band Don Gils, playing all up and down the West Coast from Alaska to New Mexico three or four nights a week. She even penned the band's biggest song, which was a jukebox hit as far away as Australia, son Gary Barrington said.
"She wrote the 'Bad Bass Boogie,' and she received ASCAP (royalties) for that" until her death Tuesday at age 87, her son recalled Friday.
Even after she left the Don Gils in the early 1980s, she kept playing music, joining Gary and his wife Janet Barrington in a musical group called The Barringtons for several years. She taught herself guitar just to join that band.
Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m. today at Santa Rosa Memorial Park Chapel, followed by a reception at her church, Christian Family Fellowship, 1160A Hopper Ave., Santa Rosa.
Gary recalls his mother being high spirited and competitive. Around the same time she got the bass, she asked Gary to pick out a car for her, as well. Being a teen boy, he went to Car & Driver magazine and picked out a hot one: a 1964 Pontiac GTO, jet black inside and out.
"I spent all my years growing up trying to get a car that would beat hers," he said. "I never did; we'd drag race up and down the rural roads."
His mother finally sold that car, against the advice of husband Dorvan Barrington, in 1984 for just $800.
"She wouldn't sell it to anyone in the family because she didn't want to be responsible for anyone killing themselves," her son said with a laugh.
But Norma Barrington wasn't all about wildness and fun. Family remember her as caring, thoughtful, and intelligent.
"She was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met," Janet Barrington said. "She was the one everyone in the family went to for advice; she was a great listener."
Even her kids and grandkids would come to her to with their problems.
"She shouldered everyone," Janet Barrington said.
Norma Hall Barrington was born Sept. 30, 1925, in Hoisington, Kan. Her family moved to Nampa, Idaho when she was young, working a farm there.
"She couldn't wait to get off the farm," her son said. "She decided she was never going to marry a farmer; too much work."
The moment she graduated from high school, he said, his mother moved all by herself to San Francisco, where she took a job at Bank of America. There, she met Dorvan Barrington, then in the Navy, and the couple married in 1943.
"She liked his sailor outfit," Janet Barrington said.
After the war, the family moved frequently with her husband's career, but they settled in Santa Rosa in 1952. Dorvan Barrington left the Navy but joined the Coast Guard, which kept him away from home for long periods. He died in 1987.
Norma Barrington attended Sonoma State College, where she was in the inaugural class of 1961. The institution, now known as Sonoma State University, honored her as one of the "Golden Graduates" at the 50th anniversary celebrations in 2011.