Jimmy "T99" Nelson whose recording career spanned over 50 years died from cancer on Sunday July 29th in a Houston nursing home. He was 88. Nelson learned the "ins-and-outs" of performing and singing from Big Joe Turner. His passing means those mid-century R&B pioneers are fast becoming an extinct breed.
His earlist hit, 1951’s "T-99 Blues" (named after a Texas highway) stayed on the R&B charts for twenty-one weeks and reached #1. In 1952, Nelson had another RPM hit with "Meet Me With Your Black Dress On". Nelson felt that BB King being on the same label held him back because they could only afford to promote one of them and it turned out to be BB.
He also performed and toured with the bands of Joe Liggins and Roy Milton, while recording on labels like Kent, Chess, and Paradise. In 1955, he acquired a day job, but still managed to do some recording and performing. An early 80’s compilation released by Ace records started re-introducing "T-99" to a wider audience.
His most recent releases were 1999’s "Rockin' And Shoutin' The Blues (Rounder) and 2002’s "Take Your Pick" (Nettie Marie Records) and 2005’s "Legend" accompanied by Duke Robillard. Born In oPhiladelphi, Nelson spent his most productive years in Texas and had resided in Houston for the past 50 years.
"He was one of the great blues shouters," said local blues artist Sonny Boy Terry.
Another of Nelson's admirers was Elvis Costello, who played Nelson's "I'll Miss Show Business" following shows on his 2002 tour.