His first recording, with the band was "Geronimo", written by Venet, produced by Kim Fowley and released on the Original Sound Records label. Although it flopped on the national charts, it charted in some of the midwest markets. "Geronimo" along with "Charge", are part of the soundtrack for a 1959 film Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow released by American International Pictures.
By the late 1950s he was playing sessions, working his way up to an in demand studio drummer, and eventually would play on the Phil Spector produced chart-topper by the Teddy Bears: “To Know Him Is To Love Him”. After his "Teen Beat" became a hit for Original Sound in 1959, he signed with Imperial as a solo artist, and continued to work as a session musician. For instance, he's heard on Gene Vincent records of the time, as well as the Hollywood Argyles' big hit "Alley Oop," on which he also did some screams. Nelson's numerous solo albums, despite the assistance of top fellow sessioneers like Steve Douglas (sax), Ernie Freeman (piano), and Rene Hall (guitar), had a lot of basic and unimaginative instrumental rock, whether original material or covers of well-known hits of the day. As with Duane Eddy's recordings, however, these simple albums might have helped inspire aspiring musicians, as things to play along and learn with if nothing else.
His playing with Gene Vincent and “Crazy Times” was commendable, but he is by far more well known for the aforementioned “Teen Beat” record he put out on the Original Sound Record Label in 1959. He’s also put out “Let There Be Drums”, and “Drums Are My Beat” shortly thereafter. What’s so unusual about this string of hits is that these songs were all instrumentals, a difficult and unusual feat at the time. Instrumentals generally didn’t chart high.
His song "Teen Beat", on Original Sound Records, rose to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1959. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold record. Subsequently he signed with the Imperial record label, and then pounded out the other two of his Top 40 hits, "Let There Be Drums", which went to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and "Drums Are My Beat". In December 1961, the British music magazine, NME, reported that "Let There Be Drums" had gone Top 10 in both the United Kingdom and United States. Guitar playing on these hits was by co-writer, Richie Podolor (aka Richie Allen), later a songwriter and record producer.
He still continued on as a session drummer, playing with the likes of the Coasters, Ernie Freeman, and Duane Eddie among others. His playing helped the Hollywood Argyles ( written by Dallas Frasier ) score a chart topping hit with “Alley Oop” and hit "A Thousand Stars" (Kathy Young and the Innocents, 1960). With Imperial records in 1961 Sandy would release a series of all instrumental cover records, that are shall we say, drum heavy, that covered Funk, Soul, Rock, Boogaloo, and more.
Unfortunately, near the end of 1963 Nelson was involved in a serious motorcycle accident, which would result in the partial loss of his leg and entire right foot. That did not stop him, and he pushed on through the 1970′s. He managed to resume his drumming career and continued to churn out albums, as well as some singles, of which "Casbah" (1965) is the highlight, with its wild splashing drums and frenetic middle eastern-surf guitar.
He has literally hundreds of cover songs.
Nelson lives in Boulder City, Nevada and continues to experiment with music on keyboards and piano.
In September, 2008, Nelson and a few friends, recording as Sandy Nelson and the Sin City Termites, released a new record of original compositions, Nelsonized, on the independent Spinout label. Other band members included Eddie Angel (guitarist for Los Straitjackets), Remi Gits, and Billy Favata of Torturing Elvis.
As Sandy Nelson approaches his seventh decade, he still records a bit today from his home base in Nevada.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Copyright. All rights reserved The Drum Dungeon, LLC and Jamdogs.Com
Drum Dungeon Bio - SANDY NELSON
Sandy Nelson (born Sander L Nelson, December 1, 1938, Santa Monica, California) is an American drummer. Nelson, one of the best-known rock drummers of the early 1960s, had several solo instrumental Top 40 hits and was a session drummer on many other well-known hits, and released over 30 albums.
Sandy Nelson was the biggest -- and one of the few -- star drummers in the late 1950s and early 1960s era in which instrumental rock was at its peak. He landed two Top Ten hits, "Teen Beat" (1959) and "Let There Be Drums" (1961), which surrounded his Gene Krupa-inspired solos with cool, mean guitar licks that were forerunners of the surf sound. Nelson had only one other Top Forty hit, "Drums Are My Beat" (1962). He ground out a quick series of instrumental albums in the early 1960s -- eight within 18 months, as a matter of fact -- with several other top Hollywood rock and pop session musicians. Nelson was not the most technical of drummers [although very good], but his principal characteristic of importance is that he found a place for drum rock solos in hit instrumental singles.
For bio additions and interview requests with The Drum Dungeon, send your inquiries and requests to email@example.com
The more reckless elements of his style no doubt influenced other musicians, such as surf drummers and, later, Keith Moon.
He attended high school with Jan Berry, Dean Torrence (who together became Jan and Dean), and Kim Fowley. After gaining respect as a session drummer, he played on such well-known songs as “To Know Him Is To Love Him” (Phil Spector’s Teddy Bears, 1958), “Alley-Oop” (The Hollywood Argyles, 1960), “A Thousand Stars” (Kathy Young and the Innocents, 1960) and more.
Nelson started to play rock'n'roll as a teenager in Los Angeles in the 1950s, his musical career started with Kip Tyler and the Flips alongside future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston. They recorded sides for the Challenge and Ebb labels. He formed a group called the The Renegades (Richard Podolor, Bruce Johnston and Nick Venet), all of whom would be important to the surf and hot rod scenes a few years down the line.
Sandy Nelson rock drummer playing "Let There be Drums" at a wedding September 22, 2007 at the boulder dam hotel in Boulder City. Sandy was sitting in with jazz band Fazio's Five.
Queen's Roger Taylor doing his version of Sandy's "Let There be Drums"
Interview with Sandy Nelson