Down in Biloxi

Steve Nelson playing guitar on the terrace, Tucson, Arizona

People have asked about the lyrics to The Nelson Brothers song Down in Biloxi. Although we haven’t been to Biloxi (yet!), we have travelled extensively in the States and many of our songs reflect our times there, in New England, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, California and Tennessee. We have listened to American music since our childhood, our father had an extensive collection of records by the likes of Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Jim Reeves etc; and also grew up on a diet of American tv shows, principally westerns. American place names have always held a fascination for me and I first heard of Biloxi in the great Jesse Winchester song of the same name.

Down around Biloxi
Pretty girls are swimmin’ in the sea
Oh they all look like sisters in the ocean
The boy will fill his pail with salted water
And the storms will blow from off towards New Orleans (Jesse Winchester)

A beautiful song which we first heard on an album by English singer/songwriter Ian Matthews in the mid 70’s. The name stuck with me and when I set out to write a song about a man ‘escaping’ his past, undertaking a road trip from North to South I looked on the map and there it was, south of Toledo, the other place name in the song. I liked the idea of this man ‘on the run’, trying to escape the inescapable, running from North to South, “on an easy wheel”, hoping to find comfort in the warmth of the Gulf, to Biloxi, the place which represents a better life, a new dream, far away from his past in the frozen North.

I have also read extensively, especially American crime thrillers, and at the time of writing was devouring James Lee Burke’s novels about his detective Dave Robicheaux, based in New Orleans.

The closest we’ve been is flying over the Mississippi delta en route from Nashville to Tucson, hopefully one day we’ll make it down there.

Many thanks to Vincent Creel and the City of Biloxi for letting us use their video for our song.



The Nelson Brothers on a songwriting trip to France

I love songwriting. As Janis Ian said “One of the hardest things of all is to start. Just sitting down and getting over your own intimidations. Every professional songwriter I know is terrified every time they sit down to write. You’re always convinced that your next song is going to be your last, or that it’s going to be your worst, or that you’ll never be able to write anything as good as your hit. It’s a constant terror. I think all artists live in a constant state of terror.”

I wrote my first song when I was seventeen. It wasn’t very good. But the thrill I felt when I finished it was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I wasn’t writing for recognition, or money. I was writing for the sheer joy of creation. To start with a blank sheet of paper, and create something that didn’t exist before amazed me. It still does.

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Records Can Change Your Life #1

Part of Simon Nelson's CD collection from Paul Simon to Tom Waits.

Records can change your life. As kids growing up we were exposed to a varied collection of vinyl records, from the likes of Al Jolson, Bing Crosby and Glenn Miller through to Jim Reeves and Johnny Cash. It was from Cash we got our first taste of the history and geography of the United States. ‘Ride This Train’, recorded in 1960, imagines a journey by train around America, taking the listener on a tour through space and time, and features a narration by Cash which is as absorbing as the songs themselves.

Johnny Cash - Ride This Train album cover

Johnny Cash – Ride This Train album cover

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Isle of Wight Festival 2015, Hard Rock Stage

The Nelson Brothers Band, Hard Rock Stage, Isle of Wight Festival 2015

Sunday 14th June, The Nelson Brothers Band are due to play at The Isle of Wight Festival 2015 on The Hard Rock Stage, courtesy of John Giddings and all at Solo UK.

This is the third time we have played at The Isle of Wight Festival. The two previous occasions have been as the backing band for Elizabeth McGovern’s Band, Sadie and the Hotheads.

Up at silly-o’clock. Tube to Hammersmith. We meet outside the Red Lion, Barnes. In the people carrier there’re keys player Nick Lacey, bass player Drew Milloy and the Nelson Brothers. We’re meeting drummer Phil Crabbe at the ferry terminal in Portsmouth.

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Stroud Americana Music Festival

The Nelson Brothers at Stroud Americana Music Festival

Americana Music is alive and well in the UK.

On a fresh day in early summer, a light wind, big, low cumulus scudding across a powder blue sky, The Nelson Brothers head west out of London on the M4. It’s a two-hour trip to Stroud. We’ve been invited to play at the Stroud Americana Music Festival at the grand Stroud Subscription Rooms.

One of the acts on the bill described Americana Music as the coming together of two strands – one from the British Isles and the other from Africa – in the US, to form new genres.

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Nelson Brothers Band live at The Convent

Nelson Brothers

A buzz of excitement in recent weeks – The Nelson Brothers have, for some time, not been up to much because of our commitment to Sadie and the Hotheads. Since Lady Cora (aka Elizabeth McGovern) is currently on the set at Highclere Castle for the last ever series of Downton Abbey. The Nelson Brothers have taken the opportunity to dust off their own songs and get back on the road.

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