“Chicago Bob Nelson’s singing and playing is in prime form; he plays the Blues the way it was meant to be played-from the heart.”
How We Helped:
Chicago Bob and Music Maker Relief Foundation connected in 2009, and since that time have recorded Chicago Bob’s record Tell Me Mama.
Chicago Bob Nelson has played the Blues ever since he was a child. He was trained under Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters and played harp in John Lee Hooker’s Coast to Coast Blues Band for several years. Bob jammed with everyone in Chicago including Buddy Guy and Slim Harpo, which earned him the nickname Chicago Bob.
Born on July 4, 1944, in Bogalusa, Louisiana, Chicago Bob’s story begins. Bob was brought up in a musical family with his father Versie Nelson playing upright bass and harmonica. Some of Bob’s earliest memories are of his father taking him to backyard barbecues and Saturday night fish fries. The music was Zydeco, Cajun and most definitely the Blues. As Bob recalls, “It was just people eating, jamming and having a good time!”
At age 8, Bob began playing the harmonica; the very instrument that would later take him around the globe and give him international recognition. In his teen years, Bob was tutored on harmonica by family friends including blues legends Slim Harpo and Lazy Lester. Bob cites Harpo, Lester, Jimmy Reed and Sonny Boy Williamson (I & II) as his primary influences. These artists taught Bob to use the harmonica as a “second voice” in reinforcing the lyrics of a song. As a child, Bob spent his summers at an aunt’s house in Chicago and eventually moved there in the early 1960’s.
Chicago is where he met and performed with Howlin’ Wolf, Earl Hooker, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and Muddy Waters. Muddy, perhaps the greatest of all Chicago Bluesmen, gave Bob his nickname “Chicago Bob”. Interestingly, Bob would later perform with Muddy Waters at the Newport Folk Festival. Over the years Bob has toured with Luther “Snake Boy” Johnson, contemporary blues guitarist Tingsley Ellis and was in John Lee Hooker’s touring band for the last years of Hooker’s life. Now residing in Atlanta Georgia,Chicago Bob Nelson is singing and playing in prime form.