Sandy Nelson Biography

Sander L. Nelson, 1 December 1938, Santa Monica, California, USA. Drummer Nelson began his career as a member of the Kip Tyler Band. Appearances in live rock ‘n’ roll shows led to his becoming an in-demand session musician, where he joined an ad hoc group of young aspirants including Bruce Johnston and Phil Spector. Nelson played on ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’, a million-selling single written and produced by the latter for his vocal group, the Teddy Bears. Johnston, meanwhile, assisted the drummer on an early demo of ‘Teen Beat’, a powerful instrumental which achieved gold status in 1959 on reaching the Top 10 in both the US and UK. Two years later, Nelson secured another gold disc for ‘Let There Be Drums’, co-composed with Richie Podolor, who became a successful producer with Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf. The pattern was now set for a bevy of releases on Imperial Records, each of which combined a simple guitar melody with Nelson’s explosive percussion breaks, a style echoing that of the concurrent surf craze.

Its appeal quickly waned and ‘Teen Beat ’65’ (1964) - recorded in the artist’s garage studio - was his last chart entry. Guitarists Glen Campbell and Jerry McGee, later of the Ventures, as well as bass player Carol Kaye were among the musicians contributing to his sessions, but these lessened dramatically towards the end of the decade. During the 70s Nelson was featured in one of impresario Richard Nader’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival shows, but he retired following the disappointing disco-influenced Bang Bang Rhythm. Despite being tempted into occasional, informal recordings, Nelson has remained largely inactive in professional music since 1978, although instrumental aficionados still marvel at the drummer’s extensive catalogue.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.