Louis Nelson Delisle

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Louis Nelson Delisle
Nelson Delisle in 1910
Background information
Birth name Louis Nelson Delisle
Also known as "Big Eye"
Born (1885-01-28)January 28, 1885
Origin United States New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Died July 20, 1949(1949-07-20) (aged 64)
Instruments Clarinet
Years active 1910s – 1940s

"Big Eye" Louis Nelson Delisle (28 January 1885 – 20 August 1949) was an early twentieth-century Dixieland jazz clarinetist in New Orleans, Louisiana. He also played string bass, banjo, and accordion professionally on occasion.

Early life and education[edit]

Nelson Delisle was born into a family who were Creoles of Color. He spent most of his life in New Orleans, Louisiana.

He studied clarinet with the elder Lorenzo Tio.


By the age of 15, Delisle was working professionally in the music venues of Storyville, an area of brothels and clubs. He developed an early style of hot playing in the earliest days of jazz, and was an important influence on such later New Orleans jazz clarinetists as Johnny Dodds and Jimmie Noone.

In his early career "Big Eye" often played a C clarinet, as opposed to the more common B♭; the C was also used by other New Orleans clarinetists of the era, such as Alcide Nunez.

In 1917, Delisle joined the reconstituted Original Creole Orchestra that included Freddie Keppard and Bill Johnson. The band had disbanded in Boston in the spring of that year but was reassembled in New York City in the fall of the same year. Big Eye replaced clarinetist George Baquet, who had toured with the group in vaudeville. After a short while, Big Eye was replaced by Jimmie Noone.[1] Big Eye was the regular clarinetist with the Jones & Collins Astoria Hot Eight but did not play on their 1929 recording sessions.

He made his only recordings in his later years in the 1940s, by which time he was often in poor health. From contemporary accounts he was past his playing prime, but still capable of producing some beautiful phrases. The recordings are available on compact disc on American Music Records. Critics describe Nelson Delisle's playing as more blues influenced and fluid compared to the statico and raggy playing of Alphonse Picou, an older New Orleans clarinetist.


  1. ^ Hazeldine, Mike. Original Creole Band. in Kernfeld, Barry. ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd Edition, Vol. 3. London: MacMillan, 2002. p. 200.

External links[edit]