Born: July 4, 1944, Bogalusa, Louisiana
Dead: January 17, 2013
"Chicago" Bob Nelson is an American blues musician from Bogalusa, Louisiana
(Robert Lee "Chicago Bob" Nelson)
Chicago Bob Nelson is a harmonica player and singer who is known for amalgamating Louisiana and Chicago blues styles. He is singular in being mentored by traditional rural southern blues harmonica practitioners and melding their approach with urban Chicago playing, thus creating his own distinctive sound.
His family was a musical family. Bob's father, Versie Nelson, played upright bass and harmonica. From a very early age Bob accompanied Versie to house parties, backyard barbecues and Saturday night fish fries around Bogalusa where cajun music, zydeco and blues were performed. Bob Nelson recalled, "It was just people eating, jamming and having a good time!" Nelson began playing the harmonica at age 8. As a youngster he was encouraged and instructed by Versie's musical cohorts, Louisiana blues legends (and Excello recording artists) Slim Harpo (James Moore) and Lazy Lester (Leslie Johnson). Nelson credited Harpo, Lester, Sonny Boy Williamson II (Aleck Miller) and Jimmy Reed (all of whom he knew) as his primary influences, as well as Sonny Boy (John Lee) Williamson whose recordings he studied. Through listening to these artists, Nelson learned to use his instrument as a "second voice" to interpret and elucidate the emotion and themes of a song. Trips to Chicago to visit family were a major part of Nelson's childhood.
By the early 1960s he had taken up residence in Chicago. There he met and performed with Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Earl Hooker and Muddy Waters. The latter, having run into Nelson at nearly every blues venue in Chicago, bestowed upon him the moniker that continues to identify him today. Nelson would later perform with Muddy Waters at the Newport Folk Festival. Throughout his career Nelson has toured extensively with Luther "Snake Boy" Johnson, Tinsley Ellis and John Lee Hooker. Now residing in Atlanta Georgia, Chicago Bob Nelson continues to tour and record internationally.