Sandy Nelson, the drummer who turned his beats into music, dies at 83

Sandy Nelson, one of the few musicians in pop history to hit the Top 10 as a standout drummer, something he did very early in a career that included more than 30 albums, has passed away. February 14 at a hospice center in Las Vegas. He was 83 years old.

His son, Joshua Nelson Straume, said the cause was complications from a stroke Mr. Nelson suffered in 2017.

Mr. Nelson was a session drummer in Los Angeles, in 1959 he recorded “Teenage Beats” a push-up instrument with a dominant drum part that was inspired by something he heard at a strip club he visited with fellow musicians.

“While they’re looking at these pretty girls in the G-string, guess what I’m doing?” he told The Las Vegas Weekly in 2015. “I was looking at the drummer in the orchestra.”

“He was playing the ‘Caravan’ type of beat,” he added, referring to a jazz standard. “‘Bum ta da da da dum’ – little toms, toms. That’s what gave me the idea of ​​’ Teen Beat.’

Mr. Nelson played in the backing band for Art Laboe, a famous Los Angeles disc jockey who also had a small record label, Original Records, and Mr. Nelson gave the song to him in the hope that he he will press it. Instead, Mr. Laboe tested it on his radio show.

“He was playing real acetate from the lathe, and he wouldn’t press it up unless he got a few calls,” Mr. Nelson recalls.

Mr. Laboe received three calls from impressive listeners, he said, and that was enough: Mr. Laboe pressed the record button. By October 1959, it had peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100, a rare feat for a drum-centered instrument.

Mr. Nelson scored again in 1961 with “Let there be drums”, reached 7th place.

Two years later, he was riding his motorcycle on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles when he collided with a school bus and was seriously injured. Part of his right leg was amputated. But he went back to drumming, learning to play bass with his left foot.

“In the long run,” he told The Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2017, “I developed a slightly better technique.”

He recorded a string of instrumental albums with session players during the 1960s and 1970s with titles such as “Boss Beat” (1965) and “Boogaloo Beat” (1968), many of which were filled with songs. covers of the hits of the day show off his drumming skills. . He took no pride in that job.

Mr. Nelson told LA Weekly in 1985: “I think the worst version ever of Rolling Stones ‘Satisfying’ was done by me,” and, oddly enough, it was a bestseller. in the Philippines. I guess they like saxophones or something.”

But among these covers, his interest in discoveries heralds electronic music all around. “Boss Beat,” for example, in addition to the song “Louie, Louie” and other hits, including “Drums in a sea cave,” in which Mr. Nelson plays to the sound of the ocean waves.

He is still experimenting at the end of his life. His friend and musician Jack Evan Johnson says that Mr. Nelson is particularly proud of “The nobles,” an eerie five-track concept album released on cassette in 2016 featuring extraterrestrial themes and sounds.

“It’s about a race of people from another planet,” he told The Las Vegas Sun in 1996, when the long-term project was just beginning to take shape. “They’ll take over the Earth and make us do nothing but dance and sing and tell silly jokes.”

Sanders Lloyd Nelson was born on December 1, 1938 in Santa Monica, California, to Lloyd and Lydia Nelson. His father was a radiologist at Universal Studios.

“My parents had these loud parties with Glenn Miller records,” he told LA Weekly, “and the sound of that stuff was like dope to me — I Yes to hear those records. ”

Drums particularly interested him, and in high school he began to play.

“I felt the piano was too complicated and I had to learn and learn how to read music,” he said. “With the drums, I can play immediately.”

He said he used to play in a band with a teenage guitarist named Phil Spector, who was later a famous and then infamous producer; Mr. Spector brought in Mr. Nelson to play the drums on “To Know Him Is to Love Him”, a 1958 hit for Mr. Spector’s Teddy Bears band.

He also played on “Oop Lane,” a 1960s novelty hit for Hollywood Argyles about a caveman in the comics, though not on drums. Equal Gary S. Paxtonwho recorded the song with a group of studio musicians, told the story to The Chicago Sun-Times in 1997 that Mr. Nelson was a last-minute addition.

“We had a drummer,” said Mr Paxton, “so Nelson was playing trash and shouting around.”

Over the years, other musicians have cited Nelson’s early recordings as an important influence; one is Steven Tyler, who started out as a drummer before rising to fame as the backing vocalist of Aerosmith. In a 1997 interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune, Tyler recalled trying to imitate one of Nelson’s strokes as a child.

“I played it until I used my little rubber drum pad,” he says. “I used up the first two Sandy Nelson albums.”

Mr. Nelson admits he didn’t handle his initial success well.

“I spent most of my money on women and whiskey, and the rest I just wasted,” he told The Review-Journal.

In addition to his son, he is survived by a daughter, Lisa Nelson.

Nelson settled in Boulder City, Nev., circa 1987 and became a colorful local fixture, running a pirate radio station out of his home for about seven years before the FCC closed your door, Mr. Johnson said. And then there’s the cave.

Mr. Nelson has a lifelong fascination with underground spaces, and in Boulder City, he began digging his burrow in the backyard with a coffee can and pickaxe. The project took him 12 years.

“I had one ‘cave tour’,” Mr Johnson said by email, “and it was quite something, even precarious – dug down at a very steep angle into hard, no-nonsense desert soil. what kind of support structure is there and just enough room to go down it all the way until the room opens up at the bottom. “

“He has an electric keyboard there,” he added.

Mr. Nelson told The Las Vegas Sun that he enjoys relaxing in his backyard cave.

“It’s a place to cool off,” he said.

“I went in without my legs,” he added. “There’s more room.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/arts/music/sandy-nelson-dead.html Sandy Nelson, the drummer who turned his beats into music, dies at 83

Fry Electronics Team

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