George Nelson

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The surname Nelson having had a great deal of acknowledged impact on the New Orleans jazz scene, it may not seem like much of a loss, at least statistically, for George Nelson to be relegated to shadowy…
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The surname Nelson having had a great deal of acknowledged impact on the New Orleans jazz scene, it may not seem like much of a loss, at least statistically, for George Nelson to be relegated to shadowy mystery man status. This may be one of the very few players from the earliest historic era of this genre's development that nobody seems to have captured on any sort of recording device. Stunning, sometimes even humorous, piles of discographical mix-ups exist in lieu of actual recording credits.

Some researchers have established recording dates for George Nelson based on mangling the names of the clarinetist George Lewis and the trombonist Louis Nelson, who did work together in a band but not with George Nelson by their side. Others confuse George Nelson with television star and bandleader Ozzie Nelson, whose real name was Oswald George Nelson and who also played a saxophone. George Harrison of the Beatles used the name George Nelson for a credit on an Electric Light Orchestra album, but may have been referencing the singer from the Orioles, if not just simply looking for a way to hide his own identity.

It is the connection with Louis Nelson that actually leads to some real information with regard to the New Orleans jazz saxophonist, active in the early 20th century in a Nelson family band. Trombonist Louis Nelson was George Nelson's brother, but this was not the Louis Nelson nicknamed "Big Eye" who played clarinet and whose real name was Louis DeLisle -- not a real Nelson at all, although he did actually employ the trombonist from the Nelson family during one period.

The real Nelson brothers hailed from Napoleonville, LA, where both their mother and father were active musically. Drummer Wothia George Thomas, also from Napoleonville, recalls mother Nelson as being the town's only music teacher. The father, referred to only as "Doctor Nelson" in historic accounts, led a band featuring both of his sons. According to Thomas, who recalled his first professional job as being with the Nelson brothers providing music for a prize fight at a park, "Doctor Nelson didn't play regularly with his band, but would occasionally play his cornet during rehearsals and he would play taps at various occasions."