Louis Hall Nelson (September 17, 1902 – April 5, 1990) was a New Orleans jazz trombonist. Louis Nelson was born on September 17, 1902 at 1419-21 Touro St. in New Orleans, LA. Both parents and his sister played the piano. His brother played the saxophone. In December 1902, his parents moved to Napoleonville, Louisiana. At the age of 15, while living in Napoleonville, Louis Nelson started playing the valve trombone and switched to the slide trombone, studying under Professor Claiborne Williams of Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Mr. Nelson credited Professor Claiborne Williams with teaching him the proper way to breathe. Williams also taught him that technique and intuition were far more important than technical skill. Mr. Nelson was quoted as saying "I heard a fellow, Lawrence Johnson, playing with a band out of Napoleonville. I said, one day I'm going to play trombone like that man. He had a smooth tone, and gave the notes the full value. That's why I followed in his footsteps." Louis Nelson’s first band was Joe Gabriel's band of Thibodeaux, Louisiana. With Joe Gabriel's band, he traveled through Cajun country, playing in dance halls for a dollar a night. Mr. Nelson married Julia Kissack in 1922. Louis Nelson and his wife moved to New Orleans after a brief stay in New York City as a Pullman porter because she was ill. While in New Orleans in the 1920s, Mr. Nelson played jazz music with: Buddy Petit, Kid Rena, Kid Punch Miller, Sam Morgan (musician), Chris Kelly (jazz), Papa Celestin, Willie Pajeaud, Kid Howard, Sidney Cates and Kid Harris' Dixieland Band. Mr. Nelson joined the hard-driving Kid Thomas Valentine band in 1945. With this band, he played one night a week at dance halls like the Tip Top, Fireman's Hall in Westwego, LA, and Speck's Moulin Rouge in Marrero, LA. He also worked for the Herbert Leary Orchestra at this time. To make ends meet, Mr. Nelson was forced to take day jobs such as a driver for the post office and for a fish merchant. He also worked as a chauffeur and as a janitor. In 1949, Louis Nelson made his first recording with clarinetist and leader Big Eye Louis Nelson Delisle, as well as Charlie Love, Johnny St. Cyr, Ernest Rogers, and Austin Young at Dr. Nelson's Touro Street house. This recording, by jazz historian Bill Russell of AM Records, marked the beginning of Mr. Nelson’s extensive recording career. Louis Nelson also played at the Paddock Lounge and later at Dixieland Hall, both on Bourbon Street. Because of Preservation Hall, Mr. Nelson now had permanent work, exposure to a new audience and was provided numerous opportunities for travel abroad as both a soloist and band member of the Billie and De De Piece and Kid Thomas Valentine's bands. Louis Nelson toured extensively from 1963, beginning with the George Lewis (clarinetist) band in Japan, Eastern, Western Europe, South America, Australia, Canada and Mexico, as well as the United States, until his death in 1990. Mr. Nelson appeared at every New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival until his death. Mr. Nelson joined the Legends of Jazz. In 1981, Mr. Nelson received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts where he developed a program in which he played for New Orleans public school students and discussed New Orleans jazz history. On April 5, 1990, Mr. Nelson died of injuries suffered from a March 27 hit and run automobile accident. The driver was never caught. Widely recorded, including music for the movie Pretty Baby (1978 film) starring Brook Shields, Mr. Nelson also appeared in many New Orleans jazz documentaries, including Art Ford's House Party, Live the Jazz, Three Men of Jazz and Till the Butcher Cut Him Down.
When these live performances occurred two decades ago, Thomas was 77 years old and Nelson was 71. Playing thousands of miles from home, with musicians several generations their junior, they retained the stirring powers that rocked the "jitney" halls of Algiers half a century ago. The vintage tunes on the programme, now considered standards, were the popular songs of their youth. They had probably played them hundreds of times, yet their music retains a fresh and exciting quality - the heart of New Orleans jazz.