Nelson, Big Eye Louis (actually DeLisle,Louis Nelson)

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Nelson, Big Eye Louis (actually DeLisle,Louis Nelson)

Nelson, Big Eye Louis (actually DeLisle,Louis Nelson) early jazz clarinetist; b. New Orleans, Jan. 28, c. 1880/85; d. New Orleans, Aug. 20, 1949. He learned several instruments, but specialized on clarinet from 1904, studying with Lorenzo Tio Sr., then worked in the Imperial Orch. (c. 1905), Golden Rule Orch. (1907), Superior Orch. (c. 1912), Eagle Band, and with Papa Celestin. He left New Orleans in June 1916 to join the Original Creole Orch. until the following spring, then returned to New Orleans and worked on and off with John Robichaux from late 1918 until 1924. He worked in various nonmusical jobs for the next decade and a half, and then led his own quartet on and off from 1939–49. He recorded two sessions in 1949 under the name of “Louis DeLisle” in a New Orleans revival style. It is difficult to trace his influence on other New Orleans clarinetists because he did not record during his youth; he claimed to have taught Sidney Bechet, while others said that he influenced Jimmie Noone and Johnny Dodds, but these claims are difficult to substantiate.

He is not to be confused with trombonist Louis Nelson (b. New Orleans, Sept. 17, 1902; d. April 5, 1990) who was a prominent musician in various New Orleans revival bands, including George Lewis’s band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.


Kid Rena (1940).

—John Chilton Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter