Skip Nelson

Photo of Skip Nelson

Singer Skip Nelson had the world handed to him on a sil­ver plat­ter sev­eral times dur­ing the 1940s, though he never had the luck to hold onto it. Born Scipione Mirabella in Italy, Nelson grew up in Brooklyn and ended up in Pittsburgh in 1940 or 1941, broke and look­ing for band work. A skilled pi­anist as well as a vo­cal­ist, he landed a job with lo­cal or­ches­tra leader Benny Burton, who also staked him a ho­tel room. He left Burton for an­other Pittsburgh band led by Joey Sims in December 1941 and was singing with Piccolo Pete at Pittsburgh’s Ritz Hotel in April 1942 when Chico Marx tapped him as vo­cal­ist to re­place the de­part­ing Ziggy Lane.

Back in New York once again, Nelson sang and recorded with Marx for the next two months, at­tract­ing the at­ten­tion of Glenn Miller, who hired him away in June 1942 to take over for the re­cently-fired Ray Eberle. Nelson’s prospects looked bright, but his time with Miller proved short when the fa­mous band­leader en­listed in the Army Air Force that September. When Miller dis­banded a few days later, Nelson re­turned to Marx, where he joined a young Mel Torme as vo­cal­ist.

Despite spend­ing only four months with Miller, Nelson’s voice graced sev­eral of the band’s last record­ings, made in July as a last ef­fort to beat the American Federation of Musician’s record­ing ban which started at the end of the month. RCA Victor slowly re­leased the ma­te­r­ial over a pe­riod of more than a year, al­low­ing the pub­lic to keep buy­ing new Miller records long af­ter the leader had hung up his ba­ton. It also kept Nelson’s name in the spot­light, and he earned eighth place in Billboard mag­a­zine’s 1943 col­lege poll for best male band vo­cal­ist.

Remaining with Marx for the next six months, Nelson left in May 1943 for Tommy Dorseys band, where he re­placed Dick Haymes, the sec­ond time in his short ca­reer that he’d been hired to take over for a top star in a top or­ches­tra. While with Dorsey, Nelson made his only film ap­pear­ance in MGMs Broadway Rhythm. Dorsey liked the singer enough that he sur­vived the band­lead­er’s in­fa­mous purge of August 1943, in which Dorsey fired his whole or­ches­tra. Nelson stayed with him un­til October, when he struck out on a solo ca­reer, rep­re­sented by for­mer band­leader Ben Pollack, who also han­dled Marx.

Nelson had lit­tle suc­cess as a solo artist. With no record­ing con­tract or ra­dio show, he strug­gled, fi­nally end­ing up with Guy Lombardo. As vo­cal­ist on the band’s 1944 top ten hit It’s Love Love Love,” he once again found him­self on the charts but un­able to cap­i­tal­ize on it, as Lombardo felt that he over­pow­ered the band and did­n’t keep him on. Nelson then found a home with Teddy Powell’s or­ches­tra, a job that ended only a few short weeks later when Powell was ar­rested on draft eva­sion charges in mid-July 1944.

Nelson joined Glen Grays or­ches­tra in early 1945, mak­ing a soundie with the band, A Friend of Yours,” on Filmcraft later that year. Gray’s fa­mous Casa Loma Orchestra was only a shell of what it once had been, though, and the po­si­tion did lit­tle to fur­ther Nelson’s ca­reer. He left Gray in January 1946 to go solo again, singing at Hollywood’s Trocadero that sum­mer and record­ing with Hal Brooks’ band. He fi­nally gave up, though, and re­turned to Pittsburgh, where early 1947 found him as part of the house act at the Mercur Music Bar, singing for pi­anist Errol Garner.

Settling down in Pittsburgh with his fam­ily, Nelson re­mained a pop­u­lar lo­cal singer over the next few years, earn­ing his own af­ter­noon tele­vi­sion pro­gram on WDTV in 1951. In the 1960s, he moved to Florida, where he con­tin­ued to sing as well as sell used cars. Skip Nelson passed away in 1974, age 58.

Music

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  • That Old Black Magic
    Glenn Miller (Skip Nelson, the Modernaires), RCA Victor (1942)
  • Moonlight Becomes You
    Glenn Miller (Skip Nelson, the Modernaires), RCA Victor (1942)
  • It's Love Love Love
    Guy Lombardo (Skip Nelson, Lombardo Trio), Decca (1944)
  • While You're Away
    Glen Gray (Skip Nelson), Decca (1945)

All recordings are from the Internet Archive's 78rpm collection. Copyright owners, please see our removal policy.

Radio

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  • Glenn Miller Chesterfield Show
    July 14, 1942 (CBS) 13:59

Sources

  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. “Skip Nelson.” IMDb. Accessed 20 Jul. 2016.
  3. The Online Discographical Project. Accessed 20 Jul. 2016.
  4. Johnson, Vincent. “Pittsburgh Symphony Heard Again on FM, Standard Broadcast Bands.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 5 Dec. 1941: n.p.
  5. “Marx Will Open Own Spot.” Billboard 4 Apr. 1942: 25.
  6. “On the Records.” Billboard 20 Jun. 1942: 68.
  7. “Miller Figures 25G in Buffalo.” Billboard 1 Aug. 1942: 18.
  8. “Miller in Army.” Billboard 19 Sep. 1942: 20.
  9. “Nelson Back with Chico.” Billboard 3 Oct. 1942: 21.
  10. “Night Club Reviews: Blackhawk Cafe, Chicago.” Billboard 28 Nov. 1942: 18.
  11. “Night Club Reviews: Blackhawk Cafe, Chicago.” Billboard 2 Jan. 1943: 68.
  12. “Marx, Hawkins Find Philly Fat.” Billboard 27 Mar. 1943: 15.
  13. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 8 May 1943: 23.
  14. “On the Stand: Tommy Dorsey.” Billboard 29 May 1943: 29.
  15. “Students Select Singers.” Billboard 5 Jun. 1943: 20.
  16. “Dead Weight Cut Seen in Dorsey Ork Notice Move.” Billboard 14 Aug. 1943: 13.
  17. “Skip Nelson Singles.” Billboard 6 Nov. 1943: 24.
  18. “Popular Record Reviews.” Billboard 11 Mar. 1944: 21.
  19. “On the Stand: Teddy Powell.” Billboard 1 Jul. 1944: 15.
  20. “Teddy Powell Held On Draft-Evasion Charge.” Billboard 22 Jul. 1944: 17.
  21. “Advanced Record Releases.” Billboard 7 Aug. 1945: 66.
  22. “Vaudeville Reviews: Golden Gate, San Francisco.” Billboard 29 Sep. 1945: 35.
  23. “Movie Machine Reviews.” Billboard 20 Oct. 1945: 76.
  24. “Vaudeville Reviews: Chicago, Chicago.” Billboard 17 Nov. 1945: 35.
  25. “Music As Written.” Billboard 19 Jan. 1946: 18.
  26. “Music As Written.” Billboard 15 Jun. 1946: 25.
  27. “Advanced Record Releases.” Billboard 20 Jul. 1946: 31.
  28. “Advanced Record Releases.” Billboard 14 Sep. 1946: 32.
  29. Cohen, Harold. “The Drama Desk.” Billboard 24 Mar. 1947: 14.
  30. “Biz Steps Up After Bad Drop in Pittsburgh.” Billboard 13 Sep. 1947: 37.
  31. Danver, Charles F. “Pittsburghesque.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 21 Nov. 1947: n.p.
  32. “'Skip' Nelson Tops West View Bill.” The Pittsburgh Press 5 Jun. 1949: 66.
  33. Advertisement. The Pittsburgh Press 9 Jul. 1951: 10.
  34. “Benny Burton's Memories Are As Mellow As a Favorite Melody.” The Pittsburgh Press 9 Aug. 1985: D2.
  35. Piroli, Gino. “Local Singer Fit Mood of Miller Band.” Beaver County Times [Beaver, PA] 11 Jun. 2001: A2.
  36. Piroli, Gino. “Nelson Started with Chico Marx Band.” Beaver County Times [Beaver, PA] 10 Sep. 2001: A2.