Chicago Bob Nelson

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Chicago Bob Nelson
Birth name Robert Lee Nelson
Born (1944-07-04)July 4, 1944
Bogalusa, Louisiana, United States
Died January 17, 2013(2013-01-17) (aged 68)
Genres Chicago blues[1]
Occupation(s) Harmonicist, singer, songwriter
Instruments Harmonica
Years active Late 1950s–2013
Labels Ichiban, HMG, King Snake and others

"Chicago" Bob Nelson (July 4, 1944 – January 17, 2013)[1] was an American blues musician.[2]

"Chicago" Bob Nelson was a harmonica player and singer who is known for amalgamating Louisiana and Chicago blues styles. He was 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.

Life and career[edit]

Robert Lee Nelson was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, United States. His was a musical family. Bob's father, Versie Nelson, played upright bass and harmonica. From an 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. Nelson recalled, "It was just people eating, jamming and having a good time!"[citation needed] Nelson began playing the harmonica at the age of eight. 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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.[1] 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 later performed 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.

Nelson died on January 17, 2013.[3][4]


  • The Heart Fixers – (with Tinsley Ellis and the Heart Fixers) Southland Records
  • Live at the Moonshadow – (with Tinsley Ellis and the Heart Fixers) Landslide Records
  • Just Your Fool (1988) – HMG
  • Comin' Back Strong – Erwin Music
  • Hit and Run Lover (1992) – King Snake Records
  • Back to Bogalusa (1996) – King Snake Records
  • Keep What I Got (1993) – Planisphare
  • Flyin' Too High (2006 compilation) – 95 North Records[5][6]

See also[edit]

  • Tinsley Ellis – In 1981 he formed The Heartfixers, with Chicago Bob Nelson.
  • Bob Page – Chicago Bob Nelson – "Just Your Fool" / "High Water" – HighTone


  1. ^ a b c Jason Birchmeier. "Chicago Bob". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-03-21. 
  2. ^ Harris, Sheldon (1979). Blues Who's Who. A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers. New Rochelle, New York: De Capo/Arlington House. pp. 396–397. ISBN 0-306-80155-8. 
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ "Robert "Chicago Bob" Nelson, 69: Blues singer, harp player". January 24, 2013. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  5. ^ "Chicago Bob > Discography > Main Albums". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-03-21. 
  6. ^ "Chicago Bob > Discography > Compilations". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-03-21.