Drew Nelson (musician)

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This article is about the Canadian musician. For the actor, see Drew Nelson (actor). For and other Drew Nelsons', see Drew Nelson.
Drew Nelson
Drew Nelson (right) and Back Alley John, Byward Market, Ottawa, 1983.JPG
Drew Nelson (right) and Back Alley John, Byward Market, Ottawa, 1983
Background information
Origin Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Genres Blues
Occupation(s) Blues singer, songwriter, guitarist
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1976 - present
Associated acts Back Alley John Revue
Drew Nelson Band
Dutch Mason
Sue Foley

Drew Nelson is a Canadian blues singer, songwriter, guitarist and recording artist. Nelson is particularly known for his slide guitar playing. He has been playing professionally for nearly forty years.


There’s something unique about Drew that I wanted to remind people of: Drew has always approached his music with honesty. He’s very unpretentious, and that can’t be said of a lot of musicians. Someone can learn to play a style of music, and they can play all the notes and play them really well, and somehow, sometimes you don’t believe them. I believe Drew.

Steve Marriner, producer of Drew Nelson's 2014 album, The Other Side[1]

Drew Nelson has based his music career primarily in Ottawa, Ontario. His professional career commenced in the 1970s, particularly as a result of his association with the late blues singer and harmonica player Back Alley John[2] (d. 2006), where Nelson was the lead guitarist in and co-founder of the Back Alley John Revue.[3] Both Nelson and John were instrumental in developing the career of Sue Foley, whose professional career commenced as a sixteen year-old singer in the Back Alley John Revue.

Drew Nelson in 2009 at Irene's Pub in Ottawa

The Back Alley John Revue, formed in 1980, initially played in Ottawa clubs and busked on the streets of Ottawa during the early 1980s, particularly in Ottawa's Byward Market, playing blues for passersby in front of the historic Chateau Lafayette House tavern.[4]

Nelson's solo career commenced when the Back Alley John Revue broke up in 1986, followed by the relocation of John to Calgary, Alberta.[3][5]

Nelson achieved early success as a solo artist when "Nothing to Show", an award-winning song originally recorded with the Back Alley John Revue[6] and later recorded by the Drew Nelson Band, was selected for inclusion in the 1991 Saturday Night Blues compilation album of Canadian blues music. The album won the 1992 Juno Award for Best Roots and Traditional Album of the Year.[7]

During this period, Nelson and his band played and recorded with Canadian blues artist Dutch Mason. Four songs written by Nelson[8] appeared on Mason's 1992 album, You Can't Have Everything, which Nelson also produced.[3] The album was nominated for a 1994 Juno Award for Best Blues or Gospel Album.[9] Over several years, Nelson and his band either opened or acted as the backing band for such artists as B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Little Richard, Eric Burdon and Taj Mahal.[3]

After a period of self-imposed semi-retirement, Nelson released Thirty Odd Years in 2006. A reconfigured band returned to performing in 2009.[10] though Nelson and band performed with decreasing frequency thereafter.[1] In 2014, Nelson released The Other Side, produced by Steve Marriner of MonkeyJunk. Marriner was an admirer of Nelson, who encouraged Nelson to return to recording and who also co-wrote a number of the songs on the CD.[1]


The Drew Nelson Band[edit]

  • 2014 The Other Side (Capon)
  • 2006 30 Odd Years (Capon)
  • 2001 Just Because (Capon)
  • 1994 Mr. Nelson's Neighbourhood (Capon)[11]
  • 1990 The Honeymoon's Over (Capon)
  • 1989 The Drew Nelson Band (Capon)[12]

Compilation Inclusions; Contributions to Others[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lynn Saxberg, Ottawa musician Drew Nelson releases first new album in eight years. Ottawa Citizen, July 25, 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-01.
  2. ^ Born John Carl David Wilson; see Back Alley John.
  3. ^ a b c d Biography of Drew Nelson www.drewnelson.ca.
  4. ^ Built in 1849, initially as a small luxury hotel, the Chateau Lafayette House is Ottawa's oldest tavern. See Sarah Rogers, Centre of attention. Ottawa Sun, January 15, 2005.
  5. ^ In 1988, to be close to a brother in Calgary, following major health challenges. John thereafter developed his playing and recording career in Calgary, which continued until his death in 2006; see Back Alley John.
  6. ^ "Nothing To Show", by the Back Alley John Revue (though credited to "Back Alley John"), is found on the Share CHEZ 83 compilation album, sponsored by an Ottawa radio station, CHEZ-FM. See Canadian Spaces Playlist, July 1, 2006.
  7. ^ Certain biographies of Nelson describe him as having written or imply that he wrote a Juno award-winning song. See, for example, Biography of Drew Nelson www.drewnelson.ca, which also erroneously dates the award as 1991. Such descriptions would appear to be inaccurate. The 1992 Juno award was for the compilation, not for any individual song within the compilation. Status of song clarified in Drew Nelson Career Highlights; www.drewnelson.ca.
  8. ^ "You Can't Have Everything", "Going Going Gone", "I Must Be Crazy" and "Hock My Ring". See Dutch Mason Discography; www.chebucto.ns.ca.
  9. ^ The award, known since 2004 as the Juno Award for Blues Album of the Year, was initiated in 1994. You Can't Have Everything lost to Colin Linden's South At Eight, North At Nine.
  10. ^ Discussion of Drew Nelson appearance at 22nd Ottawa R & B Festival, November, 2009, Ottawa Blues This Week, November 23, 2009; www.ottawablues.blogspot.com,
  11. ^ Also bootlegged in Europe as Doncha Darken My Door. See Notice of complaint by Capon Records; www.caponrecords.ottawamusicscene.com.
  12. ^ According to broadcaster Brian Murphy, the album is considered "to be one of the best homegrown albums ever released". Comments in relation to The Drew Nelson Band; www.drewnelson.ca.
  13. ^ Performing with Dutch Mason at the Ottawa Bluesfest, 2001, "Walkin' Blues".
  14. ^ a b Songwriting, playing and production credits for "I Must Be Crazy", by Dutch Mason, from You Can't Have Everything.
  15. ^ Songwriting, playing and production credits for "Going, Going, Gone", by Dutch Mason, from You Can't Have Everything.
  16. ^ Songwriting, playing and production credits.
  17. ^ The Drew Nelson Band, "Nothing to Show".
  18. ^ The Back Alley John Revue (Drew Nelson, lead guitar), "Nothing to Show".

External links[edit]