Arnett Nelson Annotated Discography

Arnett Nelson has a reasonably distinctive tone with a rather fine and fast vibrato and a rich chalumeau (low register) tone. In the 1920s, he played in an agile but relaxed New Orleans fashion incorporating parts of the styles of Leon Ropollo and Larry Shields often with phrasing like Johnny Dodds or Sidney Bechet. Unlike Dodds and Bechet. He must have used a relatively soft reed because he could play legato and very fast runs. He frequently played in the chalumeau register, which he did very well. In later years, he often used ‘gas pipe’ techniques in the manner of Wilber Sweatman, Boyd Senter, Ted Lewis, Wilton Crawley and Fess Williams – all of whom were successful musicians. It was not all clowning and some of some of his blues playing, either solo or as accompanist, is wonderful. Johnny Dodds is often remembered as the great blues clarinetist of the 1920s; Arnett Nelson deserves this title for the 1930s. During the 1930s Nelson recorded some 113 tracks, during the same period Dodds recorded six. At times, I feel Arnett Nelson was almost an Afro-American version of Pee Wee Russel.

William ‘Bill’ Dover, the trombone player with Jimmy Wade in the 1920s, recalled making records with Fletcher Henderson accompanying Ethel Waters, Mary Straine and other singers. Later in life, Dover became the Musicians Union agent for Chicago.

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MAMIE SMITH and TRIXIE SMITH made many records in the early 1920s with “unknown clarinet”, some with Fletcher Henderson but none have a clarinetist sounding like Arnett Nelson.

Arnett Nelson’s presence on most of the pre-1923 recordings of blues singers in the below section is my guesswork after listening to a lot of pre-electric records.

The following session has a band different from most of the bands accompanying singers in New York during the early 1920s. After the First World War, Jimmy Wade and William Dover were reported to have been in Lucille Hegamin’s accompanying group which toured through California then to Seattle and New York. There is no record that Nelson was also present.

Lucille Hegamin was the second African-American blues singer to record after Mamie Smith. In 1920 and 1921, she recorded in New York for the Arto label which folded in 1922. Two records were issued on Paramount related labels. “Jazz Me Blues” b/w “Everybody’s Blues” accompanied by Harris’ Blues and Jazz Seven – a rather pedestrian group lead by Clarence Harris on alto saxophone. The second session: “Arkansas Blues” b/w “I’ll Be Good But I’m Lonesome” from c. February 1921 was accompanied by a group called “Her Blue Flame Syncopaters” [sic].

The band has cornet or trumpet, trombone, clarinet, tenor saxophone, piano, brass bass and drums. It has a much looser Chicago or New Orleans style and is very different from the more formal bands playing in New York at that time. I agree with Virgo and include it in this discography. This is the only “Blue Flame Syncopators” recording with this band.

LUCILLE HEGAMIN and her BLUE FLAME SYNCOPATERS [sic]

Perhaps Jimmy Wade-tp; William Dover-tb; Arnett Nelson-cl; Vernon Roulette-ts; Teddy Weatherford-p; Louis ’Buddy’ Gross-bb; Edwin Jackson-d.

New York City. c. February 1921

180616-1?2 Arkansas Blues (A. Lada–S. Williams). The clarinet is well recorded; there are four clarinet breaks and a solo coda.

18017-1 I’ll Be Good But I’ll Be Lonesome (Fred Fisher). The clarinet sounds a bit like a relaxed Larry Shields in the ensemble; there is a clarinet solo coda

18017-2 I’ll Be Good But I’ll Be Lonesome (Fred Fischer). Like take 1 but with a tenor saxophone solo.

Walter C. Allen (Hendersonia. 1973) on page 33, discusses the Joe/Joseph Smith band in 1922. He is convinced that Joe Smith is the trumpet player and not the contemporary violinist with the same name – I agree – although Jimmy Wade cannot be excluded. The trumpet player on theses tracks is influenced by Johnny Dunn who was, at that time, number one trumpeter in New York. George ‘Lorenzo’ Brashear is, says Allen, “a doubtful identification because all ’hot’ trombone styles of the period were not very distinctive”. Allen writes that the personnel is based on “logical judgement” – whatever that is.

I suggest the trombonist is William ‘Bill’ Dover (who has said he recorded with Fletcher Henderson). Later, Allen writes: “An unidentified clarinetist, with a fine ensemble sense and a tone that reminds one of Johnny Dodds (I am sure, however, that it was NOT Dodds), whom I tentatively identify as Clarence Robinson, is present”. I can find no record of Clarence Robinson playing clarinet. One played saxophone and another was dancer who performed with Bessie Smith, Ada Brown, Norma (in her original fan dance) and many others in the Apollo theatre. My ear tells me it that it is Arnett Nelson. However, I learnt later that The Baltimore Afro-American in 1922 (6 June p. 5 and 12 June) reported that the band accompanying Ethel Waters at the Douglas Theatre in Baltimore, was the Black Swan Jazz Masters with Joe Smith, c; Fletcher Henderson Jr., p; Julian Baugh, cl; George Brashear, tb; Raymond Green, d. (from Storyville 185-185, 1996/97). Bo Lindström found out that the Baltimore Afro-American reference was wrong, and the orchestra names were in the newspaper on 16 June 1922. Lindström also informed me that Julian McReynolds [sic] Baugh was born in Mississippi on 14 August 1887 and that he lived in Chicago.

ETHEL WATERS acc. JOE SMITH’S JAZZ MASTERS

Joe Smith-tp; George Brashear-tb; Julian Baugh or Arnett Nelson-cl; Fletcher Henderson -p.

Long Island City. c. May 1922

– – Jazzin’ Babies Blues (Richard Jones). The clarinetist plays a relaxed, Johnny Dodds-like phrasing.

– – Kind Lovin’ Blues (Walters-Mitchell-Henderson). Solo clarinet coda – like in the Hegamin session above.

– – Georgia Blues (Higgins-Overstreet).

– – Georgia Blues (Higgins-Overstreet).

– – That Da Da Strain (Medina-Edgar Dowell).

There are no instrumental solos. Except for Georgia Blues, all have pleasing ensemble passages without vocals.

ETHEL WATERS’ JAZZ MASTERS

Joe Smith-tp; George Brashear-tb; Julian Baugh or Arnett Nelson-cl; Fletcher Henderson -p; Raymond Green-wood blocks; unknown-slide whistle on 386.

Long Island City. June/July 1922

386-2 Tiger Rag (La Rocca). This is a showpiece for the clarinet. The first half follows Larry Shields’ version but later, new original passages are played.

– – Pacific Coast Blues (Hegamin-Hammed). Some virtuoso clarinet playing more like Shields than Dodds. There are nine clarinet breaks.

MARY STRAINE

Joe Smith-tp; George Brashear-tb; Julian Baugh or Arnett Nelson-cl; Fletcher Henderson or perhaps Lem Fowler -p.

New York City. c. late June 1922

– – Ain’t Got Nothing Blues (Fowler). All ensemble behind the vocal except for the coda. There is some very Johnny Dodds-like phrasing.

MARY STRAINE acc. JOSEPH SMITH’S JAZZ BAND

Joe Smith-tp; George Brashear-tb; Julian Baugh or Arnett Nelson-cl; Fletcher Henderson-p; poss. Ralph Escudero-bb.

New York City. c. late June 1922

– – I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate (A. J. Piron).

– – Last Go Round [sic] Blues (Jimmy Cox).

The clarinet is rather under-recorded but there are some nice ensemble passages. Joe Smith plays very near to the style of Johnny Dunn.

ETTA MOONEY

Joe Smith-tp; George Brashear-tb; Julian Baugh or Arnett Nelson-cl; Fletcher Henderson -p.

Long Island City. c. July 1922

– – Early Every Morn’ I Want Some Lovin’ (Higgins-Overstreet)

– – Lonesome Monday Morning Blues (Hegamin-Williams).

Some excellent ensembles with the clarinet playing rather Johnny Dodds-like phrasing.

ANDREW COPELAND with Orchestra

Joe Smith-tp; George Brashear-tb; Julian Baugh or Arnett Nelson-cl; Fletcher Henderson -p; perhaps ’Buddy’ Gross-bb.

Long Island City. c. August 1922

– -2 Buzz Mirandy (Franklin-Creamer).

– -1 Down In Dixie Land (Arthur Williams).

Not found

JULIA MOODY acc. JOE SMITH’S JAZZ BAND

Joe Smith-tp; George Brashear-tb; Julian Baugh or Arnett Nelson-cl; Fletcher Henderson -p; perhaps ’Buddy’ Gross or Ralph Escudero-bb.

Long Island City. c. August 1922

– -2 The Cootie Crawl (Charles S. Booker).

– -2 Jada Blues (Vaughn-Kamnetz-Bernard).

The clarinet plays some Johnny Dodds-like phrasing but in “Cootie” the double time is not Dodds-like nor is the short “gas pipe” passage in Jada; a style he adopted later

JOSIE MILES with Orchestra

Joe Smith-tp; George Brashear-tb; Julian Baugh or Arnett Nelson-cl; Fletcher Henderson-p; probably Ralph Escudero-bb.

Long Island City. August/September 1922

424-2 If You Want To Keep Your Daddy Home (Grainger-Paisley).

425-1 You’re Fooling With The Wrong Girl Now (Roland Irving).

The clarinet plays in a style close to Johnny Dodds but without the tone and attack of Dodds.

ETTA MOONEY

Perhaps Jimmy Wade or could it be Johnny Dunn-tp; William Dover-tb; Julian Baugh or Arnett Nelson-cl; Teddy Weatherford-p; Louis ’Buddy’ Gross-bb.

Long Island City. c. November 1922

469-1 Cootie For Your Tootie

470-1 Harmony Blues

This is my guesswork.

In all the above recordings (except Andrew Copeland which I have not heard), I am convinced it is the same clarinetist. He plays a style that has its roots in New Orleans which is unlike the other New York players recording at this time such as: Garvin Bushell, Buster Bailey, Ernest Elliott, and Don Redman. He sounds very much like the clarinetist with Jimmy Wade one year later, who we know is Arnett Nelson. The Dodds-like phasing he perhaps learnt from Dodds or Bechet in earlier years in New Orleans. Although professionally he was ten years ahead of Dodds.

Written evidence points to Julian Baugh as the clarinet player, a man we know very little about. Johnny O’Donnell played in a similar style; he was in Paul Specht’s group and made some very good recordings with The Georgians from 1922 to 1924. He probably made the first recorded jazz solo on bass clarinet. But these musicians were all white and, except for Frank Guarente (who had musical exchanges with Joe ‘King’ Oliver in New Orleans), had no connections with New Orleans.

JELLY-ROLL MARTON [SIC] AND HIS ORCHESTRA

Tommy Ladnier-tp; Roy Palmer-tb; Arnett Nelson or Wilson Townes or Horace Eubanks-cl; Charles Harris or Paul ‘Stump’ Evans-as; Jelly Roll Morton-p; Jasper Taylor-woodblocks.

Chicago. late May 1923

1434-1 Big Fat Ham (Morton).

1434-2 Big Fat Ham (Morton).

1435-2 Muddy Water Blues (Morton).

The presence of Arnett Nelson on clarinet is supported by Roy Palmer but he also said it was Arnett Nelson on the September 1924 session by Jelly Roll Morton’s Kings of Jazz. That session certainly had ‘Balls’ Ball on clarinet. Hillman believes it is Nelson on the May 1923 session. The clarinetist plays in a very pleasing New Orleans style but his vibrato is a bit slower than that of Nelson but this does not rule him out.

The much-played tune ‘Buddy’s Habits’ (incorrectly often put in singular) was published in 1923 by Arnett Nelson and Charley Straight (Filmtrax Copyright Hldgs Inc., for EMI Mills Music Inc.). Charley Straight was a white band leader (who once employed Bix Beiderbecke) and Arnett Nelson was a black musician; this kind of cooperation was most unusual in 1923. The ‘Buddy’ of the title was Buddy Gross who played tuba and bass saxophone in Jimmy Wade’s Orchestra at the Moulin Rouge Cafe on Wabash Avenue, Chicago. Buddy Gross used to drink large amounts of beer. Buddy’s habit was that at the end of each set, he would rush off the stand to relieve himself. The arrangement of the first recording of Buddy’s Habits by Charlie Straight has a rather long clarinet part which is very much reduced in the recording by King Oliver’s Jazz Band, made about four months later, which was based on the same arrangement as Charlie Straight.

WADE’S MOULIN ROUGE (ROUGH on Paramount) ORCHESTRA also JIMMY WADE’S ORCHESTRA

Jimmy Wade-tp; William Dover-tb; Arnett Nelson-cl; Vernon Roulette-ts; Eddie South-vn; Teddy Weatherford-p; Louis ’Buddy’ Gross-bb; Edwin Jackson-d.

Chicago. late December 1923

1620-1 Someday Sweetheart (Spikes and Spikes). Standard arrangement played at a rather fast tempo. Nelson’s chalumeau solo is reminiscent of Leon Ropplo, later in clarion he just plays long notes

1621-1 Mobile Blues (- -). At the beginning of both takes, the melody is played solo by Arnett Nelson in chalumeau register. The rest is ensemble except for a piano solo followed by a trumpet solo.

1621-2 Mobile Blues (- -). Like take 1, but slightly faster and without a trumpet passage following the piano solo.

Gulliver. Storyville 56: 68 (1974/1975). cites the following in his Wade discography:

1646- So Long To You And The Blues (- -).

It is not by Wade but by Al Siegel and his Orchestra, also it was not recorded in Chicago December 1923 but in New York City, January 1924.

WADE’S MOULIN ROUGE ORCHESTRA (incorrectly labelled AL SIEGEL’S ORCHESTRA on Paramount).

Jimmy Wade-tp; William Dover-tb; Arnett Nelson-as; Vernon Roulette-ts; Eddie South-vn; Teddy Weatherford-p; ?Stanley Wilson-bj; Louis ’Buddy’ Gross-bb; Edwin Jackson-d.

Chicago. c. February 1924

1686-1 You’ve Got Ways I’m Crazy About (Jim Wilson). Mostly ensemble with a violin solo and later, the violin taking the clarinet role in the ensemble.

GEORGIA STRUTTERS

Jimmy Wade-tp; William Dover-tb; Arnett Nelson-cl-as; Antonia (Antonio) Spaulding-p; Stanley Wilson-bj; unknown cymbal on 14512; Perry Bradford-vcl.

New York City. 6 August 1926

14512-2 Everybody Mess Around (Bradford). Wade is being influenced by Louis Armstrong. Nelson plays the first solo on clarinet followed by one on alto and then later, again on clarinet.

14513-3 Georgia Grind (Williams). Nelson plays a stop time chorus on clarinet; the style is Dodds-like but he is certainly not copying Dodds’ part playing the same tune with the Hot Five on 26 February 1926

VICTORIA SPIVEY acc. ERBY’S FIGETTY FIVE

Jimmy Wade-tp; William Dover-tb; Arnett Nelson-cl; John Erby-p; Victoria Spivey-vcl.

New York City. 12 August 1926

74264-A Humored And Petted Blues (Spivey-Erby). All ensemble with the clarinet well recorded.

VICTORIA SPIVEY acc. ERBY’S FIGETTY FIVE

Jimmy Wade-tp; William Dover-tb; Arnett Nelson-cl; John Erby-p; Victoria Spivey-vcl.

New York City. 16 August 1926

74275-A Blue Valley Blues (Erby-Johnson). A rather daunting, slow blues – all ensemble

ALBERTA HUNTER acc. PERRY BRADFORD’S MEAN FOUR

Jimmy Wade-tp; William Dover-tb; Arnett Nelson-cl; Stanley Wilson-bj; Alberta Hunter-vcl.

New York City. c.15 September 1926

74333-A Don’t Forget to Mess Around (Barbarin). A bright number – well performed and swings with just a banjo as rhythm section.

74334-B Heebie Jeebies (Atkins-Jones). Mostly ensemble. It sounds as if Wade has been influenced by Louis Armstrong, but the arrangement does not copy the Hot Five version from 26 February 1926. Nelson does not copy the Dodds’ part, but he plays in a Dodds-like style.

GEORGIA STRUTTERS

Jimmy Wade-tp; William Dover-tb; Arnett Nelson-cl; Antonia (Antonio) Spaulding-p; Stanley Wilson-bj; Perry Bradford-vcl.

New York City. 21 October 1926

142854-3 Wasn’t It Nice? (Jackson and Horsley). After the vocal, Dover and Nelson play a duet then followed by a satisfactory ensemble.

142855-3 Original Black Bottom Dance (Bradford and Horsley). Nelson plays a two-chorus solo, the second in stop-time and two breaks in the coda.

PERRY BRADFORD AND HIS GANG

Jimmy Wade-tp; William Dover-tb; Arnett Nelson-cl-as; Antonio Spaulding-p; Stanley Wilson-bj; probably Edwin Jackson-d; Perry Bradford-vcl.

New York City. December 1926

74428-A Original Black Bottom Dance (Bradford and Horsley). At the start, Nelson plays alto saxophone; his solo is close to the melody, but he has four breaks. During the vocal he changes to clarinet and is sometimes rather shrill.

74429-A Kansas City Blues (Horsley). Nelson plays a solo in clarion with breaks. Wade at times sounds rather like Johnny Dunn.

CLARENCE WILLIAMS’ JAZZ KINGS

Arnett Nelson, Clifford King-cl; Clarence Williams-p; Leroy Harris-bj; Cyrus St. Clair-bb.

New York City. 25 January 1927

W143348-2 Gravier Street Blues (Williams).

W143349-2 Candy Lips (Jackson and Lauria).

Personnel is from Hillman. Both tracks are closely orchestrated clarinet duets without any solos. It is not certain who they are. John Capes suggests Ben Whittet and Bennie Moten which seems to me reasonable.

PERRY BRADFORD AND HIS GANG

Jimmy Wade-tp; William Dover-tb; Arnett Nelson-cl; James P. Johnson-p; Stanley Wilson-bj; Harry Hall or Walter Wright-bb; Edwin Jackson-d; Perry Bradford-vcl.

New York City. 16 February 1927

80429-C All That I Had Is Gone (Bradford). During the vocal there are two breaks, the first on clarinet the second on chimes. The ride-out has Wade playing a nice lead.

B80430- Lucie Long (Bradford). There is no clarinet solo, but Nelson is sometimes a bit shrill in the ensemble.

ORIGINAL JAZZ HOUNDS

Jimmy Wade-tp; William Dover-tb; Arnett Nelson-cl; James P. Johnson-p; Stanley Wilson-bj; Harry Hull or Walter Wright-bb; Edwin Jackson-d; Perry Bradford-vcl.

New York City. 15 March 1927

143657-2 All That I Had Is Gone (Bradford). Very like 16 February session.

143658-3 Lucie Long (Bradford). Very like 16 February session.

JIMMY WADE’S CLUB ALABAM ORCHESTRA

Jimmy Wade-tp-dir; William Dover-tb; Arnett Nelson-cl; Antonio Spaulding-p; Stanley Wilson-bj; Walter Wright-bb; Edwin Jackson-d; Perry Bradford-vcl.

New York City. 5 April 1927

GEX-571 All That I Had Is Gone (Bradford). Like 16 February session but no breaks during the vocal, a nice trombone solo and excellent ensemble ride-out.

GEX-572 Original Black Bottom Dance (Bradford). Nelson plays clarinet throughout, his solo is in chalumeau with some slap-tonging – shades of what is to come.

JIMMY WADE AND HIS DIXIELANDERS

Jimmy Wade-tp-dir; Punch Miller-cnt-vcl; Charlie Lawson-tb; Arnett Nelson-cl-as/ts; ?Charles Johnson-as/ts; Alex Hill-p-arr; ‘Papa’ Charlie Jackson or Stanley Wilson-bj; Walter Wright or Quinn Wilson-bb; Cliff ‘Snags’ Jones-d-kz.

Chicago. 11 Oct 1928

C-2428 Mississippi Wobble (Alex Hill). A satisfying arrangement. Nelson plays alto saxophone throughout.

C-2428-A Mississippi Wobble (Ale Hill). Like take 1.

C-2429 Gate’s Blues (Jimmy Wade). Nice clarinet solo before the vocal, then gentle chalumeau behind the singer – trombone solo – clarinet in the ensemble.

C-2429-A Gate’s Blues (Jimmy Wade). Like take 1.

KING MUTT AND HIS TENNESSEE THUMPERS

Lawrence ‘Cicero’ Thomas or perhaps Mutt Carton-tp; Arnett Nelson aka King Mutt-as-cl; Jimmy Blythe or perhaps Frank Melrose on some-p; Al Miller-mandola-kz-vcl-sp; ?– Rogers-g; Clifford ‘Snags’ Jones d.

Richmond, Indiana, 12 February 1929

14789-A Mississippi Stomp [Blythe’s Stomp] (Blythe). Alto (melody) – trumpet – chalumeau clarinet with some slap-tongue – piano – clarinet and kazoo – slap-tongue clarinet – ensemble ride-out.

14790-A Shake Your Shimmy (Blythe). Alto – trumpet – piano – trumpet – mandola – chalumeau clarinet – ensemble ride-out.

14791 Original Stomp[s] (Smith). Ensemble – alto – trumpet – piano – chalumeau clarinet – drums – trumpet (nice) – clarion clarinet and kazoo – ensemble ride-out.

14793 Good Time Mamma (- -). Alto – trumpet (melody) – trumpet (free) – piano – chalumeau clarinet (three choruses the second skilfully slap-tongued) – vocal – ensemble with dominant clarinet.

1794 Maxwell Street Stomp (Miller). Ensemble – alto – mandola (nice). – trumpet – chalumeau clarinet – clarion clarinet – piano – ensemble with dominant clarinet.

14796 Nut-House Stomp (Burson). Ensemble – chalumeau clarinet – trumpet – piano – clarion clarinet – piano – ensemble.

14797 I Wanna Get It (Miller). Ensemble – alto with breaks – vocal – trumpet – chalumeau clarinet and mandola – trumpet.

The personnel are still uncertain, but Hillman suggests the trumpeter is Mutt Carton rather than Lawrence ‘Cicero’ Thomas. The clarinet player sounds a little different from that in Jimmy Wade’s bands. After listening many times, I am convinced that it is Arnett Nelson. Wade’s Bands played in ‘high class’ establishments and they were quite tightly orchestrated. Nelson plays clarinet and alto saxophone in the ensemble with some very nice clarinet solo parts. The King Mutt session is a rather joyous and wild free-for-all. At the beginning of most tracks, Nelson plays the melody – more or less straight – on alto saxophone and then later, goes wild on clarinet with some highly skillful slap-tonguing in the chalumeau register (this he also did in the Wade Band on “The Original Black Bottom Dance” (GEX-572). The question arises – who is King Mutt? On “Good-Time Mamma” Al Miller shouts “Play it Mutt” during a trumpet solo. Later, during a clarinet solo he shouts: “play it Mr guitar man”. On “Nut House Stomp” he shouts, “Blow It Mutt, blow it” during the clarinet solo.

Later, on a Thomas’ Devils session (12 March 1929), in “Boot It, Boy”, David Cross shouts “Play it Mutt” to the clarinet break and “Oh play that thing Mr Thomas” to a trumpet break. It seems that King Mutt was Arnett Nelson. On this session, at least, it must be Lawrence ‘Cicero’ Thomas on trumpet. I believe it is the same trumpet player on the “Tennessee Thumpers” session.

FRANKIE ‘HALF-PINT’ JAXON

Arnett Nelson or perhaps unknown-as-cl; Jimmy Flowers-p; Ikey Robinson-bj; ?Sid Catlett-d on C-2951; Frankie ‘Half-Pint’ Jaxon-vcl.

Chicago. 13 February 1929

C-2951 Let’s Knock A Jug (- -). At the start, Nelson plays alto behind the vocal – later he switches to clarinet.

C-2952 Can’t You Wait ‘Till I Get You Home? (- -). At the start alto later switching to clarinet.

There has been some discussion about the clarinetist on this session. On ‘Let’s Knock A Jug’, Virgo (Storyville 129: p. 85) hears Jaxon “naming the clarinetist ‘Len’ or ‘Lem’” and then assumes it is Lem Johnson – I find this most unlikely. To me Jaxon sings “come on Jim”. It does not seem to be aimed at the clarinetist but the piano player – Jimmy Flowers. Hillman believes the alto and clarinet is played by Vance Dixon. I am not totally confident that it is Arnett Nelson but the chalumeau resembles Nelson and not Dixon. Dixon sounds as if he was classically trained. He plays precisely and correctly (no faking) although he often used ‘gas pipe’ tricks. The clarinetist on the 22 July 1936 session of Frankie Jaxon recording of ‘Corinne Blues’ sounds like a different clarinetist and is, to me, surely Vance Dixon. The clarinet player on Jaxon’s recordings ‘You Got To Wet It’ and ‘Down Home In Kentucky’ on 6 Dec 1929, is neither Dixon nor Nelson but could possibly be the player on the ‘Let’s Knock A Jug’ session – he remains unknown.

THOMAS’ DEVILS

Lawrence ‘Cicero’ Thomas-tp; Arnett Nelson or perhaps Ed Boudraux-cl; George W. Thomas-p; Tommy Taylor-d; Dave Cross-vcl.

Chicago. 12 March 1929

C-3101-A Boot It Boy (George W. Thomas). Entirely ensemble behind the vocal, the clarinet is clearly audible.

An anecdotal report of a test pressing had the names Carton and Boudraux pencilled on it. I am convinced it is Arnett Nelson on clarinet. David Cross shouts “Play it Mutt” to the clarinet break and “Oh play that thing Mr Thomas” to a trumpet break.

KANSAS CITY TIN ROOF STOMPERS

Lawrence ‘Cicero’ Thomas or perhaps Mutt Carton-tp; Arnett Nelson-cl-as; Ernie ‘Chester’ Smith-bassax or bass sarrusophone; Frank Melrose-p; Tommy Taylor-d; Jimmy Bertrand-xyl-slide whistle.

Chicago. 15 March 1929

C-3127-A Aunt Jemima Stomp (Moloy-Bingham). Ensemble with alto – duet clarinet with xylophone – piano – ensemble – xylophone – trumpet – ensemble ride-out with clarinet

C-3128 St Louis Bound (- -). Ensemble with slide whistle and Nelson on clarinet – piano – ensemble – xylophone – ensemble ride-out.

The bass instrument sometimes sounds like a sarrusophone.

TEDDY MOSS

Arnett Nelson-cl; Herve Duerson-p; Teddy Moss-vcl.

Richmond, Indiana. 28 August 1929

15514 Dyin’ In The Electric Chair (Robinson). Nelson stays in the role of accompanist. At the beginning, he plays chalumeau with long notes with a wide vibrato, later he creeps into clarion then returns to chalumeau. It is a good blues clarinet performance.

TEDDY MOSS

Arnett Nelson-cl; Turner Parrish-p; Teddy Moss-vcl.

Richmond, Indiana. 28 August 1929

15515 You Broke My Heart Baby (Robinson).

15516-A Heart-Breaker Blues (Robinson).

15517 Back-Biter Blues (Robinson).

15518 Wake Up In The Morning (- -). listed as Dudley Brown

15519 Western Traveler [sic] Blues (- -). listed as Dudley Brown

15520 Sympathizin’[sic] Blues [Sorry Blues] (Parrish).

15521 Easy Papa (Robinson).

This is a rather uniform and boring session. Nelson plays clarion throughout and stays the role of accompanist playing more or less “standard” blues phrases. On 15516 he plays the introduction solo and occasionally he plays the coda solo.

TEDDY MOSS

Arnett Nelson-cl; Alexander ‘Bob’ Robinson or Leroy Carr-p; Scrapper Blackwell-g; Teddy Moss-vcl.

Richmond, Indiana. 4 February 1930

16210-A Rocky Luck Blues (- -). Nelson is rather restrained but plays a nice duet with Blackwell on guitar.

ROBINSON’S KNIGHTS OF REST

Arnett Nelson-cl; Alexander ‘Bob’ Robinson or Leroy Carr-p; Scrapper Blackwell-g.

Richmond, Indiana. 4 February 1930

16217-A Mean Baby Blues [Hot And Bothered] (- -). This record is almost a Nelson solo. He plays in all registers but reduces his playing to simple riffs during the guitar solo.

The name of the band certainly suggests that the piano player is Robinson and I guess this is also goes for the previous session.

IKE SMITH AND HIS CHICAGO BOYS

Arnett Nelson-cl; Joe Walker-as; Ike Smith-p-vcl; John Lindsay-sb.

Chicago. 7 September 1935

90311-A Fighting Joe Louis (Smith) The lead is played with by Joe Walker on alto with Nelson on clarinet in the role of accompanist. He occasionally plays some very fast staccato following the alto.

90312-A Chicago State Street Blues (Smith). At the start and later, Nelson plays the melody in harmony with the lead alto.

Hillman doubts Nelson’s presence with Ike Smith. Five and a half years have passed since his last recording also he is playing with a very able alto saxophonist. His style is restricted by the band. He does not play anything beyond his normal scope. The fast, slightly trembly vibrato and growling noises are typical for Arnett Nelson. I think it is him.

WASHBOARD RHYTHM KINGS

Arnett Nelson-cl; ‘Casey Bill’ Weldon-steel g; Tampa Red-g-kz (his real name is Hudson Whittaker); Washboard Sam (his real name is Robert Clifford Brown)-wb; Clarence Williams-vcl and perhaps jug on 96259.

Chicago. 1 November 1935

96258-1 Please Come On Down To My House (C. Williams). Nelson plays the melody in chalumeau at the start and later goes to clarion but always stays close to the melody.

96259-1 Brown Skin Mama (J. Blythe). A delightful number – mostly ensemble with some tasteful jug-playing

96260-1 Street Walkin’ Blues (C. Williams). Nelson performs two tasteful blues solos.

96261-1 Arlina (C. Williams). Nelson takes the lead playing the melody then backing the vocalist very tastefully and then reverts to the melody. This Nelson at his best.

This is a very satisfying session of swinging Chicago South-Side music.

CHICAGO RHYTHM KINGS

Mr Sheiks’ Alfred Bell-cnt; Roy Palmer-tb-vcl on 1291; Arnett Nelson-cl-vcl on 1292; Black Bob-p (his real name is still unknown, he often thought to be Bob Hudson but other suggestions are: Bob Robinson, Bob Alexander, Bob Schanault (or Chenault) and Chris Reggell); Tampa Red-g-percussion (slapping on guitar); Bill Settles-sb.

Chicago. 11 March 1936

C-1291-2 You Battle-Head, Beetle-Head (Roy Palmer). Mostly ensemble – Nelson plays nice chalumeau behind Palmer’s vocal.

C-1292-1 It’s Too Bad When The Sisters Start Truckin’ Around (Arnett Nelson). This is Nelson’s own composition. At the beginning, the ensemble is a bit wild. Nelson has a pleasant singing voice, he plays two very nice chalumeau solos, also there is nice riff chorus.

C-1292-2 It’s Too Bad When The Sisters Start Truckin’ Around (Arnett Nelson). This take is like the first one but Nelson plays full range runs in each of his solos.

BUMBLE BEE SLIM

Roy Palmer-tb; Arnett Nelson-cl; Myrtle Jenkins or Black Bob-p; Tampa Red-g-percussion (slapping on guitar)-?speech; Bill Settles-sb; Bumble Bee Slim (his real name is Amos Easton)-vcl.

Chicago. 11 March 1936

C-1293-1 When The Music Sounds Good (Easton). This take accelerates at the beginning. Nelson is rather laid back until his two-chorus solo which uses the whole range of his clarinet.

C-1293-2 When The Music Sounds Good (Easton). In this take, the tempo is almost constant. Nelson hesitates at the beginning of his second chorus solo.

On the next number of this session (without trombone and clarinet): ‘When I Get My Money, I Mean Bonus’, Bumble Bee sings “I’ll buy Myrtle a souvenir” which suggests that the pianist is Myrtle Jenkins and not Black Bob.

TAMPA RED AND THE CHICAGO FIVE

Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Tampa Red-kz-vcl-g-percussion (slapping on guitar); Willie Bee James-g; Bill Settles-sb.

Chicago. 1 April 1936

100300-1 Let’s Get Drunk And Truck (Hudson Whittaker). There is no clarinet solo but Nelson plays some growls and slick runs in the background.

100301-2 Maybe It’s Someone Else You Love (Hudson Whittaker). Between the two vocals, Nelson plays some slap-tongue and runs in duet with the kazoo.

CHICAGO RHYTHM KINGS

Mr Sheiks’ Alfred Bell-cnt; Roy Palmer-tb and vcl on 100306; Arnett Nelson-cl; Joe Walker-as on 100305; Black Bob-p; Tampa Red-g-percussion (slapping on guitar); Bill Settles or John Lindsay-sb.

Chicago. 3 April 1936

100305-1 Shanghai Honeymoon (Shockley-Houseman-Melrose). The alto stays in the background. There is some nice piano. Nelson plays slap-tongue and growls.

100306-1 Little Sandwich Wagon (Roy Palmer). Palmer’s vocal has rather unusual lyrics. Nelson, in chalumeau, plays growls and slap-tongue. This whole session swings along nicely

LIL JOHNSON

Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Big Bill Broonzy-g; Bill Settles-sb; unknown-percussion; Lil Johnson-vcl.

Chicago.11 June 1936

C-1397-2 Two Timin’ Man (Lil Johnson). Behind the vocal, Nelson plays tasteful chalumeau, but both his solos are rather eccentric and mostly in clarion.

C.1398-1 Was I [Drunk]? (Endor-Farrell). Again behind the vocal, Nelson plays sympathetic and tasteful clarinet but his solos are a bit wild with some adventurous runs.

WASHBOARD SAM AND HIS WASHBOARD BAND

Arnett Nelson-cl; Big Bill Broonzy-g; Bill Settles-sb; Washboard Sam-wb-vcl.

Chicago. 26 June 1936

C-1412-2 Don’t Tear My Clothes (Willie Broonzy). Nice washboard and guitar. Some quirky clarinet but Washboard Sam obviously approves of Arnett’s playing “It’s good to me”- “play it long time”.

STATE STREET SWINGERS

Alfred Bell ‘Mr Sheiks’-cnt; Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Tampa Red-g-percussion (slapping on guitar); Bill Settles-sb; Leonard ‘Blue’ Scott-vcl on 1428, speech on 1429.

Chicago. 9 July 1936

C-1428-1 I Kept On Rubbing That Thing (- -). The cornet is dominant. Nelson’s solo is mostly chalumeau with growls and runs.

C-1429-1 Chicago Rhythm (- -). Nelson is well behaved during the ensemble even playing in harmony with the cornet, his solos are really quirky. Leonard Scott’s comments on Arnett’s playing. “Man! is that beautiful – that sure is good – I mean it’s good” – “what that you doin’ on that? Never heard anybody do that before – that sure is good – ain’t nobody can tell me it’s not good” – he seems to approve.

BLUE SCOTT AND HIS BLUE BOYS

Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Willie Bee James-g; Tampa Red-g-percussion (slapping on guitar); Leonard ‘Blue’ Scott-vcl.

Chicago. 5 August 1936

100679-1 Rubbin’, Rubbin’ (Joe Harris). Nelson goes in for some clowning which fits the mood of the music.

100679-2 Rubbin’, Rubbin’ (Joe Harris). Like first take but Nelson plays some quick runs.

TAMPA RED AND (THE) CHICAGO FIVE

Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Tampa Red-g-kz-vcl-percussion (slapping on guitar); Willie Bee James-g; Bill Settles-sb.

Chicago. 5 August 1936

100889-1 You Stole My Heart (Hudson Whittaker).

100890-1 You Got Me Worryin’ (Hudson Whittaker).

100892-1 All Night Long (Hudson Whittaker).

100893-1 That’s The Way I Do (Hudson Whittaker).

100894-1 I Hate Myself (Hudson Whittaker).

The first four numbers are unremarkable 32-bar songs. Tampa Red’s kazoo is not attractive, and his tapping disturbs at times. Nelson mostly plays close to the melody but there is some effective chalumeau playing behind Tampa’s vocals. The last number livens up a bit and swings along.

TAMPA RED

Arnett Nelson-cl; Tampa Red-p-vcl: Willie Bee James-g.

Chicago. 5 August 1936

100895-1 I Need You By My Side (Hudson Whittaker). A slow 8-bar blues ‘based’ on How Long Blues. Nelson plays some very nice chalumeau, Tampa Red plays a simple but effective piano, and Willie Bee James’ guitar is delightful. It is a satisfying performance.

100896-1 Blue And Evil Blues (Hudson Whittaker). A 12-bar blues of the Milk Cow kind. Nelson plays some very nice chalumeau, but he also inserts a few tricks – clicks and glissandi.

CHICAGO FIVE

Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Tampa Red-g-percussion (slapping on guitar)-?vcl, Willie Bee James-g; Bob Robinson-vcl.

Chicago. 5 August 1936

100938-1 I Ain’t Gonna Do It (Bob Robinson).

100939-1 I’m A Gamblin’ Man (Bob Robinson).

A joyous session. Nelson is at his eccentric best with growls, slap-tongue and, quick runs which fit the mood of the music. Black Bob plays two very good piano solos.

LIL JOHNSON AND HER CHICAGO SWINGERS

Mr Sheiks’ Alfred Bell-cnt; Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Bill Settles-sb; Lil Johnson-vcl.

Chicago. 20 August 1936

C-1445-1 Hottest Gal In Town (Lil Johnson). Lil Johnson seems to approve of Nelson’s growling chalumeau solo, she tells him to “drag it on down” and “beat it out”.

C-1446-2 Let’s Get Drunk And Truck (Hudson Whittaker). Some rather nice, restrained clarinet playing, Arnett Nelson fits in very well with Lil Johnson.

LEONARD SCOTT

Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob or perhaps J. Harry Shayne-p; Bill Settles-sb; Leonard Scott-vcl.

Chicago. 20 August 1936

C-1451-1 She’s Got Something Good (Willie Broonzy). Leonard Scott seems to enjoy Arnett Nelson’s antics – he shouts: “Play it Mr Man”, “Do it Man” twice.

C-1452-2 You Done Tore Your Playhouse Down (Amos Easton). Some rich chalumeau behind Scott’s vocal and during Nelson’s solo, Scott laughs and shouts: “Do it man” and some other unintelligible remarks.

STATE STREET SWINGERS

Mr Sheiks’ Alfred Bell-cnt; Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Bill Settles-sb; Washboard Sam aka Robert Brown-wb-vcl.

Chicago. 28 August 1936

C-1453-2 Oh, Red! (- -). Rocking Chicago South-Side music at its best. Nelson’s clowning fits in very well.

C-1454-1 Whippin’ That Jelly (James McComb). Towards the end some really eccentric clarinet which fits the mood of the music. During Nelson’s solo, Washboard Sam shouts: “What is that? Jelly boy – Play it now”.

STATE STREET SWINGERS

Mr Sheiks’ Alfred Bell-cnt; Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Willie Bee James-g; Bill Settles-sb; Fred Williams-d; Bob Robinson-vcl.

Chicago. 1 October 1936

C-1506-1 You Waited Too Long (- -). After the first vocal chorus, the next 32 bars are satisfying ensemble with the clarinet playing the middle eight as solo – towards the end, there are some remarkable runs on clarinet.

C-1507-1 When You Were A Girl Of Seven (Hudson Whittaker). The band plays the first 32 bars close to the melody. The lyrics are remarkable and could not be sung today.

JANE LUCAS aka VICTORIA SPIVEY

Arnett Nelson-cl; J. Harry Shayne-p; Big Bill Broonzy-g; John Lindsay-sb; Victoria Spivey-vcl.

Chicago. 1 October 1936

C-1508-1 Mr Freddy Blues (- -). Nelson plays some nice blues clarinet with an extra-ordinary clarinet coda – Hillman says he is “adventurously inaccurate” – I do not find this correct for this recording.

C-1508-2 Mr Freddy Blues (- -). Like take 1, but Nelson starts his first solo with some trills.

C-1509-1 Trouble In Mind (- -). Nelson plays a sympathetic backing – Spivey seems to get the best out of him.

ARNETT NELSON AND HIS HOT FOUR

Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Casey Bill Weldon-steel g-vcl; Big Bill Broonzy-g; Bill Settles-sb.

Chicago. 8 October 1936

C-1535-1 Oh, Red! (- -). A good swinger. Most of the time Nelson plays simple chalumeau phrases and riffs behind Weldon, only in the last chorus he ascends to clarion.

C-1535-2 You Waited Too Long (- -). Nelson plays some very nice clarinet but, again, Weldon is rather dominant.

These are the only records issued under Nelson’s name. One gets the impression that Casey Bill Weldon is the leader.

STATE STREET SWINGERS

Mr Sheiks’ Alfred Bell-cnt; Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob or J. Harry Shayne-p; John Lindsay or Bill Settles-sb; Washboard Sam-wb-vcl.

Chicago. 15 October 1936

C-1563-1 Swing Cat Swings [sic] (- -). Nelson plays nice articulate clarinet – it is good swinging stuff.

C-1564-2 Oh, Red! No. 2 (- -). Rather like the two previous versions

VICTORIA SPIVEY AND (HER) CHICAGO FOUR

Lee Collins-tp; Arnett Nelson-cl; J. Harry Shayne-p; John Lindsay-sb; Victoria Spivey-vcl.

Chicago. 15 October 1936

C-1567-1 Hollywood Stomp (Spivey). There are no instrumental solos. Collins and Nelson play well together – a good swinger.

C-1568-2 Detroit Moan (Spivey). A straightforward blues with a rather wild solo trumpet introduction. During the vocal, Collins and Nelson alternate every four bars. The last chorus is played in double time.

C-1569-1 Any-Kind-A-Man (- -). Nelson plays a nice, articulate clarinet solo.

C-1569-2 Any-Kind-A-Man (- -). Like take 1 but Nelson’s solo is more coherent and melodic.

C-1570-2 I Ain’t Gonna Let You See My Santa Claus (Victoria Spivey). Melodically like Detroit Moan (1568-2), without the trumpet introduction but with the trumpet and clarinet alternating every four bars and with a double-time final chorus.

BUMBLE BEE SLIM

Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Big Bill Broonzy-g on 1647/8, Willie Bee James-g on 1649; Bill Settles-sb; Amos Easton-vcl; unknown bird calls on 1647; unknown percussion on 1648.

Chicago. 4 November 1936

C-1647-2 Hobo Jungle Blues (Amos Easton). Nelson plays some nice blues clarinet mostly in clarion. The lyrics are rather unusual. It is a satisfying recording.

C-1648-1 Slave Man Blues (Amos Easton). Nelson plays the unusual but attractive melody almost as if it were written. His solo stays with the chord changes.

C-1648-2 Slave Man Blues (Amos Easton). – not found.

C-1649-1 I’m Gonna Live My Life Alone (- -). This is a 32-bar melody. The first chorus is played by Nelson in clarion with Willie Bee James taking the middle eight on guitar. Later Willie Bee plays a nice guitar solo.

C-1649-2 I’m Gonna Live My Life Alone (- -). The same arrangement as take 1.

BILLIE McKENZIE

Arnett Nelson-cl; Myrtle Jenkins-p; Bill Settles-sb¸ Billie McKenzie-voc.

Chicago. 4 November 1936

C-1650-2 Romeo And Juliet (Billie McKenzie). Nelson stays in chalumeau behind the vocal but his solo is well constructed, it goes in to clarion with some rather Johnny Dodds-like breaks.

C-1651-1 That Man On The WPA (Billie McKenzie). Nelson plays chalumeau behind the first vocal passage then he uses the full range for his solo and then plays clarion behind the second vocal passage.

Billie McKenzie composes and sings unusual and interesting lyrics.

THE HOKUM BOYS

Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Bill Settles-sb; Bob Robinson, Amos Easton and Washboard Sam-vcl.

Chicago. 4 November 1936

C-1652-1 Every Man For Himself (Alexander Robinson). Nelson’s first solo is in chalumeau – it swings nicely and gets some encouraging shouts. His second solo is in clarion.

C-1653-1 You Can’t Have None Of That (Robinson). Nelson plays three solos, all in clarion sometimes descending to chalumeau. It is a good blues clarinet performance often effectively playing several Johnny Dodds-like phrases.

BUMBLE BEE SLIM

Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Big Bill Broonzy-g on 1654; Bill Settles-sb; Amos Easton – aka Bumble Bee Slim-vcl-g on 1655 & 1656.

Chicago. 4 November 1936

C-1654-1 My Big Moments (- -). Nelson plays three solos – all in clarion – of excellent blues clarinet.

C-1654-2 My Big Moments (- -).not found.

C-1655-1 I’ll Meet You In The Bottom (Amos Easton). Nelson plays three solos. They are in clarion, sometimes descending to chalumeau.

C-1656-2 Meet Me At The Landing (- -). Nelson plays three solos all in clarion, sometimes descending to chalumeau. There is a very nice piano solo.

STATE STREET SWINGERS

Lee Collins-tp; Arnett Nelson-cl; Myrtle Jenkins-p; Big Bill Broonzy-g; John Lindsay-sb; Mary Mack (aka Aletha Dickerson)-vcl.

Chicago. 19 November 1936

C-1686-1 Rattlesnakin’ Daddy (- -).not found.

C-1686-2 Rattlesnakin’ Daddy (- -). Behind the vocal, Nelson often plays quick runs. There are two trumpet and clarinet duets consisting mostly of harmony riffs. Collins’s solo is mostly of high notes. Nelson’s solo towards the end is excellent blues clarinet in clarion and often rather Johnny Dodds-like – Mary Mack shouts “Play it Arnett”.

C-1667-1 You Can’t Do That To Me (Willie Broonzy). This is an eight-bar theme. The first two choruses are a trumpet and clarinet duet. Nelson plays chalumeau behind the vocal. There is some very good piano playing, at first with the trumpet and later solo. Afterwards, there is an excellent blues clarinet solo in clarion, followed by the ride-out with clarinet and trumpet riffs

TAMPA RED AND (THE) CHICAGO FIVE

Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Tampa Red-kz-g-vcl-percussion (tapping on guitar); Willie Bee James-g; Bill Settles-sb.

Chicago. 21 December 1936

01874-1 If It Wasn’t For You (Hudson Whittaker).

01875-1 Right Or Wrong (Hudson Whittaker).

01876-1 Stop Truckin’ And Do The Suzi-Q (Hudson Whittaker).

01877-1 Cheatin’ On Me (- -).

01978-1 Your One And Only (Hudson Whittaker).

01879-1 My Za Zu Girl (Hudson Whittaker).

This is an unusual session for these musicians; it consists mostly of simple songs and sentimental ballads – far from the blues and South-Side swing. Nelson gets no solos; he is rather restrained throughout playing behind the vocal or doing duets with the kazoo. The only number which come to life is Stop Truckin’ And Do The Suzi-Q.

THE HOKUM BOYS

Arnett Nelson-cl; Aletha Robinson (aka Aletha Dickerson)-p; Bill Settles-sb; Bob Robinson aka Alexander J. Robinson and unknown-vcl.

Chicago. 13 January 1937

C-1737-2 Swing That Thing (Alexander Robinson). After a nice piano solo, Nelson starts clowning with slap-tongue, clicks and growls but towards the end, Bob Robinson tells Arnett “To swing that thing” and he does just that with simple riffs.

C-1738-1 Georgia Mule (Aletha Dickerson). Some nice piano and more clowning on the clarinet.

Alexander J. Robinson (aka Bob Robinson). was the husband of Mayo Willams’ secretary Aletha Dickerson. When Mayo Williams moved to Vocalion, Robinson became manager of The Hokum Boys and with his wife essentially ran Paramount Records.

BOB ROBINSON TRIO

Arnett Nelson-cl; Aletha Robinson (aka Aletha Dickerson)-p; Bill Settles-sb; Bob Robinson-vcl.

Chicago. 13 January 1937

C-1739-1 Crying For Love (Aletha Dickerson). At the beginning, Nelson plays a nice and rather gentle solo which only occasionally touches on the melody. The melody is the same as “Stealin’ Away” composed by Christopher Greaves but with different lyrics. It was recorded as “Steal Away” (Steal Away Blues) by Johnny Dodds in 1929 with the Paramount Pickers (Herwin Hot Shots). On this session, the piano player and presumably leader was Alexander Robinson aka Bob Robinson!

C-1740-1 Heart-Breaking Blues (Alexander Robinson). At the beginning, Nelson plays a rather weird but pleasing solo. Behind the vocal he plays in chalumeau and his final solo is well under control.

CHICAGO BLACK SWANS

Mr Sheiks’ Alfred Bell-cnt; Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Big Bill Broonzy-g-vcl; Tampa Red-g-perc; Bill Settles-sb.

Chicago. 26 January 1937

C-1768-2 Don’t Tear My Clothes No. 2 (- -). Some rather adventurous Mr Sheiks on cornet followed by very nice chalumeau clarinet. Towards the end cornet and clarinet play unison riffs and an arranged unison coda.

C-1769-1 You Drink Too Much (- -). Nelson plays a rather shrill clarion solo.

STATE STREET SWINGERS

Mr Sheiks’ Alfred Bell-cnt; Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Big Bill Broonzy-g; Tampa Red-g-perc; Bill Settles-sb; Barrel House Annie-vcl.

Chicago. 26 January 1937

C-1770-1 You Drink Too Much (- -). Nelson’s first solo in clarion is a bit weird but later he solos on chalumeau – Barrel House Anne obviously approves of Arnett’s playing and shouts “Ripp it – I hear you – Jeah!”.

C-1771-1 Don’t Tear My Clothes No. 2 (- -). Nelson’s first solo is in clarion followed by some nice chalumeau and later clarion – a very satisfying recording.

THE HOKUM BOYS

Arnett Nelson-cl; Aletha Robinson aka Aletha Dickerson-p; Bill Settles-sb; Bob Robinson and unknown-vcl.

Chicago. 10 March 1937

C-1842-1 It Started In The Garden Of Eden (Aletha Dickerson).

C-1842-2 It Started In The Garden Of Eden (Aletha Dickerson).

C-1843-2 Just Diddling Around (Aletha Dickerson).

C-1845-1 You Got Your Ribs Out Of Pawn (Aletha Dickerson).

Nelson is rather restrained and fits in very well; there is some clowning on 1845 but it is appropriate. There are some strange and unusual lyrics which do not sound as if they were written by a woman – she, nevertheless, plays some very powerful and swinging piano.

CASEY BILL AND HIS ORCHESTRA

Arnett Nelson-cl-?ten; ?Bill Owsley-cl-ts (absent on C-1868); Laura Rucker-p; Casey Bill Weldon-steel g-vcl: unknown-g; unknown-sb.

Chicago. 24 March 1937

C-1861-1 Did You Mean What You Said? (- -). I hear two chalumeau register clarinets riffing in harmony in the background behind Casey Weldon’s steel guitar, later Nelson takes a solo on clarinet followed by Owsley on tenor and towards the end two-clarinet riffs in chalumeau can be heard the background.

C-1861-2 Did You Mean What You Said? (- -). In this take, the short note riffs at the beginning are replaced by long chalumeau notes in harmony.

C-1862-1 Do You Think That’s Right? (- -). Like take two – clarinet riffs can be heard behind Casey Weldon, Owsley takes a solo on tenor, Nelson remains in the background.

C-1862-2 Do You Think That’s Right? (- -). This is like 1861-1 with short riffs, but there is a short burst of Nelson’s clarinet before the tenor solo.

C-1863-1 ‘Round And ‘Round (- -). Two clarinets in chalumeau can be intermittently heard behind Casey Weldon’s vocal, Nelson plays a solo with break and the coda is of two clarinets playing an upper register (clarion) descending arpeggio in harmony.

C-1863-2 ‘Round And ‘Round (- -). Take two is very similar to one, but Nelson plays a much better and rather Johnny Dodds-like solo.

C-1864-1 Give Me Another Shot (- -). Two clarinets in chalumeau may be heard in the background, Nelson solos on clarinet followed by Owsley on tenor.

C-1868-1 No Good Woman (- -). I hear just one clarinet; there are three solos all sounding like Nelson.

Hillman is probably correct in identifying Arnett Nelson on clarinet and Bill Owsley on tenor saxophone and second clarinet. I agree that all clarinet solos are by Arnett Nelson.

When the tenor plays, no clarinet is heard and when the clarinet plays no tenor is heard. An alternative and explanation is that Nelson is playing not only clarinet but tenor and sometimes two clarinets at the same time – a not impossible task and has been used used by many from Wilber Sweatman to Rahsaan Roland Kirk. The two clarinets are rhythmetrically so close together that it is likely that both are played together by the same person.

TAMPA RED AND THE CHICAGO FIVE

Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Tampa Red-kz-g-vcl-percussion; Willie Bee James-g; Bill Settles-sb.

Aurora, Ill. 4 May 1937

07606 She Said It (Hudson Whittaker).

07607 It’s Hard To Believe It’s True (- -).

07608 When Love Comes In (Hudson Whittaker).

07609 You Got To Learn To Do It (- -).

07610 I Give My Love To You (- -).

07611 I See You Can’t Take It (Hudson Whittaker).

A session without any blues or swinging numbers – just pop songs some with sickly lyrics. Nelson stays an accompanist but plays some duets with the kazoo – no fireworks and no fooling.

WASHBOARD SAM AND HIS WASHBOARD BAND

Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Big Bill Broonzy-g; Bill Settles-sb; Washboard Sam-wb-vcl.

Aurora, Ill. 4 May 1937

This session and the next are very good. Mostly they play well known much used tunes but given new titles. During this session, each number has some very good chalumeau clarinet playing. Nelson’s staccato riffs at the bottom of the clarinet’s range behind Washboard Sam’s singing is wonderful. The first sessions are all up-tempo, swinging numbers.

07614 Easy Ridin’ Mama (Robert Brown). The clarinet plays very much under control and keeps to the melody with great chalumeau behind Washboard Sam’s voice.

07615 The Big Boat (Robert Brown). An eight-bar boogie with some delightful eccentric clarinet playing.

07616 Back Door (Robert Brown). Some nice chalumeau clarinet and a solo which although a bit wild remains under control.

WASHBOARD SAM AND HIS WASHBOARD BAND

Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Big Bill Broonzy-g; Bill Settles-sb; Washboard Sam-wb-vcl.

Aurora, Ill. 11 November 1937.

This session and the next are examples of very good “South Side, Chicago” music. Most of the tunes played, are well known but they have been given new lyrics and titles and published by Robert Brown (aka Washboard Sam). Almost each number has some very good chalumeau clarinet playing. Nelson’s staccato riffs at the bottom of the clarinet’s range behind Washboard Sam’s singing is wonderful. Is there any better record of blues clarinet playing than “Where Were You Last Night?”?

016500 Washboard’s Barrel House Song (Robert Brown). Nelson’s solo in clarion remains close to the melody without any tricks.

016501 Want To Woogie Some More (Robert Brown). The first chorus is Nelson playing his own melody in clarion. The second solo is well-constructed and is a near perfect blues chorus. The third solo and coda are simple well-played improvisations on the clarinet.

016502 Ladies’ Man (- -). A super well-constructed solo in chalumeau. Later, he joins Settles and pays staccato bass behind Bill Bill’s guitar solo, this must be unique

016503 You Got To Take It (- -). The solo in clarion is interesting but it is a bit out of context.

016504 Beer Garden Blues (- -). Nelson plays this slow blues in a straightforward way without any tricks, the final solo is in clarion.

016505 Where Were You Last Night? (Robert Brown). Glorious clarinet playing throughout. The solo is brilliant and keeps the blues feeling.

RED AND HIS WASHBOARD BAND

Arnett Nelson-cl; Curtis Jones-p; Big Bill Broonzy-g; Willie Bee James-g; Washboard Sam-wb; Red Nelson (aka Nelson Wilborn)-vcl-?kz.

Chicago. 25 January 1938

C-2082-1 Prowling Groundhog No.2 (Robert Brown). Nice chalumeau behind the vocal. Nelson’s solo is wild and eccentric and does not fit the mood.

C-2083-1 Don’t Tear My Clothes No.3 (Willie Broonzy) All three solos keep close to the melody. The first in chalumeau the other two in clarion.

LORRAINE WALTON

Arnett Nelson-cl; Blind John Davis-p; unknown-g; Bill Settles-sb; Lorraine Walton-vcl.

Chicago. 9 February 1938

C-2084-1 If You’re A Viper (Rosetta Howard). Chalumeau background to the vocal. Nelson’s solo is a bit weird using the whole range of the clarinet incorporating fast runs but all the time keeping close to the melody; it is followed by an excellent piano solo.

C- 2085-1 Waiting Blues (Lorraine Walton). First chorus is solo in chalumeau and later he interjects suitable phrases with the singer.

WASHBOARD SAM AND HIS WASHBOARD BAND

Arnett Nelson-cl; Black Bob-p; Big Bill Broonzy-g; George Barnes-el g (on 02148).; Washboard Sam-wb-vcl.

Aurora, Ill. 14 March 1938

020140 Don’t Leave Me Here (Robert Brown). Nelson mostly keeps close to the melody – his first solo is a strange counter melody but plays some growls in the second solo.

020141 My Woman’s A Sender (Robert Brown). This is an up-tempo number. Mostly Nelson plays in the gaps of the vocal. His solo is a bit weird, but it swings along nicely.

020142 Towboat Blues (Robert Brown). This is a simple blues and Nelson’s solo fits in well with the mood.

020143 Mountain Blues (Robert Brown). Again, a simple blues which Nelson keeps in the mood. His solo is excellent blues clarinet.

020144 Phantom Black Snake (Mary Breland). Once more, excellent blues infused clarinet playing.

020148 Down At The Old Village Store (Robert Brown). This is really charming number. Nelson plays in a very pleasant, restrained and relaxed manner. George Barnes plays two excellent solos; one is surprised that a white teenager is pioneering the electric guitar in Chicago blues clubs and that he is being invited to record there; he made about 100 sides with Chicago blues musicians.

This seems to be Arnett Nelson’s last recording session. At about this time in the Chicago blues scene, the clarinet was replaced by the saxophone. Bill Owsley was in some demand, but he was more or less eclipsed by Joseph ‘Buster’ Bennett and, later, by J. T. Brown. In 1947, a new sound from New Orleans with a band lead by Dave Bartholomew, with Earl Palmer on drums two or more saxophones emerged and changed the face of the blues. With recordings by Antoine ‘Fats’ Domino and Richard Penniman aka Little Richard, the blues emerged from small clubs to become a World Music.

The following have been thought to have Arnett Nelson on clarinet. It is not him and I agree with Hillman that it is Bill Owsley

LIL JOHNSON

Bill Owsley-cl, Aletha Robinson aka Aletha Dickerson-p; Fred Williams-d; Lil Johnson-vcl.

Chicago. 29 June 1937

C-1949-1 Take Your Hand Off It

C-1950-1 Bucket’s Got A Hole In It (Lil Johnson).

C-1951-1 Mellow Stuff (Lil Johnson).

C-1952-1 When I Can Get It (Lil Johnson).

C-1953-1 Love Thief (- -).

CASEY BILL WELDON AND HIS ORCHESTRA

Bill Owsley-cl; Laura Rucker (Frog Annual 2: 2011) or Joshua Altheimer-p; Casey Bill Weldon-steel g-vcl: Charlie Mc Coy-g; Ransom Knowling-sb.

Chicago. 28 October 1937

C-2050-1 New ‘Round And ‘Round (William Weldon).

C-2051-2 Christmas Time Blues (William Weldon).

MEMPHIS MINNIE

Bill Owsley-cl; Blind John Davis-p; Memphis Minnie-p-vcl (real name Minnie McCoy).; Bill Settles-sb.

Chicago. 15 December 1937

C-2052-2 Please Don’t Stop Him (- -).

C-2053-1 Walking And Crying Blues (Minnie McCoy).

C-2054-2 I’m Going Don’t You Know (- -).

C-2055-1 Running And Dodging Blues (- -).

C-2055-2 Running And Dodging Blues (- -).

C-2057-2 Stop Lying On Me (- -).

LULU SCOTT

Bill Owsley-cl; Jesse Coleman aka George Jefferson aka Monkey Joe-p; Willie Bee James-g; prob Ransom Knowling-sb; Lulu Scott-vcl.

Aurora, Illinois. 16 June 1938

020833-1 Everybody Do The Shag (- -)

Virgo (1978). suggested that the following have Arnett Nelson on clarinet. I do not recognize Arnett Nelson, or indeed Jimmy Wade or William Dover on any of them.

DIXIE WASHBOARD BAND

New York City. 25 Jan 1926

141553-1 Wait ‘Till You See My Baby Do The Charleston

141554-1 Livin’ High

The clarinetist is Bennie Moten.

EVA TAYLOR with CLARENCE WILLIAMS’ BLUE FIVE

New York City. c. 6 August 1926

74243-B When The Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin, Along

74244-B (There’s A Blue Ridge In My Heart). Virginia

Only a little bit of clarinet can be heard. It is rather shrill and unlike Arnett Nelson. The trumpet/cornet and trombone parts are almost certainly not played by Jimmy Wade and William Dover.

LUCILLE HEGAMIN with CLARENCE WILLIAMS’ BAND

New York City. 28 September 1926

14695-2 Nobody but My Baby Is Gettin’ My Love

14269-2 Senorita Mine

There is clarinet solo on 14695; it is played rather strait by a competent player. In 14269 the clarinet is playing from a score with a rather weak chalumeau – certainly not Nelson.

EVA TAYLOR with CLARENCE WILLIAMS’ MOROCCO FIVE

New York City. c. 5 October 1926

74388-B Nobody But My Baby Is Getting My Love

74389-B Morocco Blues

On 74388, there are very capable tenor and soprano saxophone solos. On 74389, some background clarinet can be heard. Nothing suggests to me that it is Arnett Nelson playing. The violin is most likely Eddie South who, two or three years earlier, had played with Nelson in Jimmy Wade’s Band.

SARA MARTIN with CLARENCE WILLIAMS’ BLUE FIVE

New York City. 9 April 1927

80712-B Cushion Foot Stomp

80713-B Take Your Black Bottom Outside

It is Ben Walters on clarinet.

CLARENCE WILLIAMS’ WASHBOARD FIVE

New York City. 13 April 1927

80688-E Cushion Foot Stomp

80689-F Take Your Black Bottom Outside

The clarinetist is the remarkable Puerto Rican player Camello Jari – sometimes called Jejo.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Allen, Walter C. Hendersonia. Jazz Monographs No. 4, Highland Park, N.J. i-xiv, 1-651 (1973).

Collins, Lee. Oh! Didn’t He Ramble, as told by Mary Collins, edited by Frank J. Gillis and John W. Miner. University of Illinois Press 1-200 (1947).

Gulliver Ralf. Jimmy Wade. Storyville 56: 55-68 (1974/75).

Hillman, Christopher, and Middleton, Roy with Chaigne, Michel. Chicago Swingers. Cygnet Publications i-v, 1-105 (2010).

Lindström, Bo. Life and Music of George L. Brashear, 1893 – 1968. Privately Published, 1-89 (2018).

Sampson, Henry T. Blacks in Blackface: A Sourcebook on Early Black Musical Shows. 2nd Edition in 2 volumes. Lanham, MA: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.1-1576 (2013).

Virgo, Ernest S: Arnett Nelson. The “Unknown Clarinet”. Record Research Magazine, no. 159/160: 13-14 (1978). Ernest Virgo also wrote the sleeve notes for the LP – Magpie PY 1803 “Arnett Nelson – The Rhythm Kings – When the Music Sounds Good 1935 -1938” – issued in 1978.

Christopher D. K. Cook played clarinet with several revivalist groups during the 1960s in Edinburgh, Derby, Cambridge, Munich (Germany) and finally Liverpool. He lives in Switzerland where he spent his professional career as a noted botanist and researcher.

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