Steady Nelson
Big Band Jazz Musician
1913 -1988

Woody Herman (left) at the Panther Room in the Sheriton Hotel, Chicago 1940. Steady Nelson, trumpet (right).

Horace Steadman "Steady" Nelson was born in Jefferson, Texas. After high school he hit the road with his trumpet and played with numerous regional bands in the South. He developed a unique New Orleans Jazz trumpet style. With the help of another Texas trumpeter, Harry James, he was introduced to New York and his career took off. During is musical career he recorded over a hundred records in 46 recording sessions with many famous big bands; Woody Herman's original herd, Horace Heidt's Orchestra, Hal McIntyre's Orchestra, Glen Grey's Casa Loma Orchestra and the NBC Radio Orchestra. The NBC Radio Staff Orchestra performed in the live radio shows of Bob Crosby, Jimmy Durante, Dinah Shore and others.


Woody Herman's Trumpet section in 1940. Steady Nelson on the right with Bob Price and Cappy Lewis.

In 1935 he married Ruth Ezel in Houston, Texas. She joined him on the road and the two became known as "Steady and Ezy" to thier musician friends. She traveled with him on the road until thier first son was born in 1942.

Ruth Ezel "Ezy" Nelson with Woody Herman's "Band that Plays the Blues" van. 1940

Steady joined Woody Herman's Orchestra in 1939. He played lead trumpet on Woody's first huge hit, "Woodchopper's Ball", on the Decca lable. Steady was the featured voclist on "Rosetta" (Decca) and 'I'm Comin' Virginia" (Decca). He also accompanied Woody Herman and other vocalists in live NBC Radio Shows and on vocal recordings for Decca Records; "Bessie's Blues", "Blues Downstairs", "Oh, look at me now", "Big Morning", and "Whatcha Know Joe" with vocalist Muriel Lane (NBC Radio).

Woody Herman promotional postcard in 1941. Steady Nelson, trumpet (top row left).


Down Beat magazine cover, 1940 . (Left to right) Cappy Lewis, cornet; Woody Herman, clarinet; Carol Kay, singer; Bob Price, trumpet and Steady Nelson, trumpet.


Steady falls off polo pony after the cover shot was taken. Photo sent in by cousin Tere

He was the featured trumpet on these Woody Herman recordings: "Farewell Blues", "East Side Kick", "Put That Down in Writing", "If I Knew Then", "In an Old Dutch Garden", "Pick a Rib", "Choppin Wood", "On the Isle of May", "Thank Your Lucky Stars", "Blue Ink", "Get Your Boots Laced Papa I", "You Think of Everything", "Where Do I Go from You", "The End of the Rainbow", "Your the One", "Fur Trapper's Ball" , "Don't Cry Cherie", and "Bishop's Blues".

In 1942 he joined Hal McIntyre's Orchestra. They recorded several records for World Records on April 1, 1942.; "Friday Afternoon", "Daisy Mae" and "We'll meet again". In July, 1942, they recorded "Kille Kille (Indian Love Talk)" with the Four Lyle sisters and "This is the Army Mister Jones" with vocalist Jack Lathrop.

During the recording ban of 1942-1944, some live shows were recorded and later put on commercial discs. In 1943, with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, he recorded "Birmingham Special" and Blackberry Jam".

Steady joined Horace Heidt on tour and left New York for Los Angeles in 1943. He then joined the NBC Radio Staff Orchestra. He remained with NBC Radio until the invention of the tape recorder. NBC Radio's decision to use pre-recorded taped music, combined with a weak musician local in Hollywoood, delivered a death blow to live radio music and the musicians that relied on the steady work.

In 1949, after the birth of thier fourth child , Steady and Ezy decided to leave the music business and give up life on the road. He had developed a talent for accounting while keeping books for the Musician's Local 47 in Hollywood, and became a Public Accountant.

Steady didn't lay down his trumpet for long. He performed in many regional bands, combos and as a soloist in churches and night clubs in Southern California. He played some memorable gigs with his own combo, at the "Embers" and the "Beacon Tavern" in Bishop, California. He also played with Al Winter's Dixieland Band, and the "Winterschnitzels" (German polka band) in Bishop. After moving to Orange, California, he played with the "Old-timer's Band" at the Balboa Bay Club and in jam sessions with other big band greats at the Balboa Pavillion near Newport Beach.

Steady and Ezy had five children and eleven grandchildren. He died in Orange, California in 1988. She died in 1992.

MORE BIG BAND PHOTOS

LINKS WITH INFORMATION AND RECORDINGS

Texas Music Pioneers
The Jazz Discography
The Male Vocalists
The Radio Years CD
Verve Records
Crazy Jazz
Nostalgic Images
Artist Direct - Steady Nelson

This web page is dedicated to the memory of Mom and Dad Nelson

 

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