R.I.P. Jimmy "T-99" Nelson

Legend of blues, R&B and early rock and roll passes away

Sad news from Dr. Roger Wood: Turns out Marvin Zindler was not the only treasured Houstonian to pass away Sunday. Jimmy “T-99” Nelson, the last of the real-deal blues shouters, died of cancer at St. Dominic’s nursing home. Some sources say he was born in 1919; others cite 1928. (The earlier date seems likelier, as singers tend to fudge their ages toward youth.)

The Press’s print edition will have a full obit next week, but here’s a thumbnail sketch of his life. Born in Philadelphia, Nelson started his career in Oakland, where he met Big Joe Turner and adopted his powerhouse vocal style. He had some R&B hits (“T-99 Blues,” “Meet Me With Your Black Dress On”) in the ‘50s, and settled here in 1955. After a long period of dormancy, Nelson launched a successful comeback in 1998. His late-period song “I’m Sure Going to Miss Show Business” was discovered by Elvis Costello, who played a recording of Nelson’s version at the close of all his shows on his 2003 world tour.

Nelson was a fantastic singer, the last of his kind, and one of the finest songwriters the blues has ever known. He was also a sage and a world-class character. Show business will miss you too, Mr Nelson. – John Nova Lomax


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