Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Sandy Nelson - Rock 'N' Roll Drum Beatdotdot
artworkSandy Nelson is one of the great session drummers. His credits run from Phil Spector's earliest hit with the Teddy Bears through Kip Tyler and the Flips (which included a mighty young Bruce Johnston) and Jan and Arnie (Jan and Dean, and Bruce Johnston), on to his exceptional solo projects with guitarists like Richie Podolor and Jerry Magee. In 1960, Sandy lost his left foot in a car crash, but one year later hit the charts with "Let There Be Drums." He continued making great drum records right through the eighties. This is an infectious thing with a rolling rhythm and great drums. Musicians include Sandy Nelson - drums, Plas Johnson or Jackie Kelso or Steve Douglas - sax, Ernie Freeman or Ray Johnson - piano, Rene Hall or Irving Ashby or Richie Podolor - guitar, and Bill Pittman or Red Callender or Joe Comfort - bass.
Picks: Day Train, Slippin' And Slidin', Willie and the Hand Jive, All Night Long, My Girl Josephine, All Shook Up, Sandy, Alexis, Let's Go, The City, Linda Lu, Bull Frog, Bony Marone, Tough Beat, Yakety Yak, La Bamba Bossa Nova, Jivin' Around (Parts 1 and 2), Don't Be Cruel, The Flip, Be-Bop Baby, Live It Up, Dumplin's, Wiggle Wobble, Limbo Rock, School Day, In The Mood, Charlie Brown, My Wife Can't Cook, I'm Gonna Be A Wheel Someday, Let There Be Drums

Track by Track Review


Day Train dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This is a dismissible jam session, rooted squarely in fifties studio session sounds. The boys were having fun, but it's not enough to carry the track.

Slippin' And Slidin' dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Little Richard's wailing song is the basis for this infectious blues jam. Energetic and bouncy, with a pumping piano and thumpy bass line, and a solid drum solo.

Willie and the Hand Jive dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Johnny Otis' Bo Diddley inspired hit is launched with a fairly white bread arrangement. Unremarkable.

All Night Long dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This classic forties raver gets updated cleaner recording, but otherwise remains heavily in the big band drum groove. This one note blues jam was often covered, though besides the honkin' energy I've never quite figured out why. There's no melody, just a big band drums session and a relentless riff.

My Girl Josephine dot
Rock (Instrumental)

Fats Domino's suave song finds a pale presentation here. The sax work is not inspired...

All Shook Up dot
Rock (Instrumental)

Otis Blackwell's hit for Elvis just doesn't cut the mustard... images of fat white guys in neckties rockin' side to side being so cool... doesn't work for me.

Sandy dot
Rock (Instrumental)

Pop master H. B. Barnum wrote this without his usual flair. The piano seems too mechanical to be really enjoyable.

Alexis dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This was the B-side of one of "You Name It." Despite the orchestral sax work, it's tribal funk and drum work overcome the repetitious guitar riff. Sandy Nelson and Richie Podolor wrote it, but Richie does not play on the track.

Let's Go dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

A pretty pale performance of the Routers cheer leader hit. Not very interesting, though the drum work is rock solid.

The City dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Steve Douglas' nasty sax and Sandy Nelson's tribal thunder work wonders on this track. The guitar riff is highly repetitious, but the back ally mean streak comes through clearly, coupled with a Vegas runway giggle.

Linda Lu dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Ray Sharpe's classic "Linda Lu" just doesn't develop the "cool" of the hit.

Bull Frog dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

The infectious beat is carried by Sandy Nelson's heavy drum thunder. The riff is unimaginative, but the raw tribal power oozes Blackboard Jungle scenery. Pretty cool track.

Bony Marone dot
Rock (Instrumental)

Larry Williams pumped out "Bony Marone," Dick Dale slaughtered it, and Sandy Nelson missed the point as well.

Tough Beat dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Session guitarist Rene Hall wrote this. The low-E growl of the lead riff is sorta interesting, but if not for the drums, would likely not be enough to hold attention.

Yakety Yak dot
Rock (Instrumental)

Leiber-Stoller gimmick songs just don't hold up to instrumental interpretation very well. OK, but so what!

La Bamba Bossa Nova dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This bossa nova interpretation of the traditional tune Ritchie Valens struck gold with is pretty good for a studio session of this period. More soul than most, and then there are those great drums. Sandy Nelson's relentless thunder is always cool.

Jivin' Around (Parts 1 and 2) dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Ernie Freeman's "Jivin' Around (Parts 1 and 2)" is a groovin' jam with piano and a walking bass line. OK, but not memorable.

Don't Be Cruel dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Another great Otis Blackwell song written for the King misses the mark in this fluffy interpretation.

The Flip dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Session guitarist Rene Hall and Sandy Nelson wrote this. It sounds to me like Sandy created a beat, and Rene just jammed around it. Just so-so.

Be-Bop Baby dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Fifties fare, "Be-Bop Baby" was a minor sub-rockabilly hit. Mostly just quirky.

Live It Up dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Ernie Freeman's repetitious tune is saved by Sandy Nelson's great drums. It's the beat, man, punctuated by guitar and sax.

Dumplin's dot
Rock (Instrumental)

Blues jams about food... what is it about the gravy and biscuits crowd that leads them to write R&B grooves with little focus, and then name them after dinner?

Wiggle Wobble dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Les Cooper and the Soul Rockers' "Wiggle Wobble" is uninspired, even in the sax line. Non of the power and excitement that the original sports is in evidence here.

Limbo Rock dot
Rock (Instrumental)

Billy Strange wrote this. The Champs hit with it. These lads made it placid by contrast.

School Day dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Chuck Berry's rocker made over with bleached flour and too much leavening.

In The Mood dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Andy Razaf's and Joe Garland's big band classic remade into a pop-rock hit by Ernie Fields and his Orchestra is dumbed down some, lacking the chemistry, but retaining the percussion character through Sandy Nelson's beat.

Charlie Brown dot
Rock (Instrumental)

The Leiber-Stoller novelty "Charlie Brown" looses the charm and humor without the lyrics.

My Wife Can't Cook dot
Rock (Instrumental)

Bluesy and stiff, with very little imagination or flair.

I'm Gonna Be A Wheel Someday dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Fats Domino's optimistic song losses some of it's bounce and spirit at the hands a studio sessions. Just OK.

Let There Be Drums dotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

"Let There Be Drums" was the first track released after Sandy Nelson lost his foot. It is an infectious thing with a rolling rhythm and great drums. The formula was a cross between "Wipe Out" and "Rebel Rouser." Nelson's drums are solid, and Richie Podolor's guitar work is excellent too.