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Biography

  • Born

    27 December 1944 (age 76)

  • Born In

    Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin, United States

Tracy Nelson (born in Madison, Wisconsin, on 27 December 1944) is an American singer. She fronted 60s blues band Mother Earth and recorded albums in her own name and as Marcia Ball, Irma Thomas and Tracy Nelson.

In her teens, Nelson sang folk music in coffeehouses and with The Fuller's Wood Singers group, and was lead singer in The Fabulous Imitations band.

In 1966, Nelson moved to San Francisco where she became part of the SF music scene . The band she fronted, Mother Earth, played the Fillmore Auditorium, sharing bills with the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. It was during this period that Nelson wrote and first recorded her signature song "Down So Low" (released on the Mother Earth album "Living with the Animals") that was later covered by a number of artists including Linda Ronstadt, and Etta James. Nelson re-recorded "Down So Low" herself several times.

In the late 1960s, Nelson relocated to Nashville, where she and Mother Earth recorded the album Make A Joyful Noise and the solo effort Tracy Nelson Country. In 1974, her duet with Willie Nelson, "After the Fire is Gone," was nominated for a Grammy Award.

After a lengthy hiatus from recording in the 1980s, Nelson released several albums on the independent Rounder Records label in the 1990s. Her 1998 "Sing It!" collaboration with label-mates Marcia Ball and Irma Thomas (as Marcia Ball, Irma Thomas and Tracy Nelson) garnered a second Grammy nomination.

Since the early 2000s, Nelson has recorded for various independent record labels. Other projects include a collaboration with blues-rock veterans Nick Gravenites, Harvey Mandel, Corky Siegel and Sam Lay (as the Chicago Blues Reunion), with Angela Strehli, Annie Sampson, and Dorothy Morrison (as the Blues Broads), and performed intermittently with Missouri band the Bel Airs and with Chicago-based Corky Siegel's Chamber Blues.

Growing up in the early 1960s, Nelson immersed herself in R&B, and later what she calls "the folk scare of the sixties." As an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin, she combined her musical passions singing folk and blues at coffeehouses and R&B at frat parties. In 1964 she went to Chicago to record her first album, Deep Are The Roots. A young harmonica player from Memphis named Charlie Musselwhite played on the album and the two would explore the city's famed south side where she met and was inspired by such legendary figures as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Otis Spann and others. A short time later, Nelson moved to San Francisco and, in the midst of the era's psychedelic explosion, formed Mother Earth. After six Mother Earth albums for Mercury Records and Reprise Records, Nelson continued to record as a solo artist on various labels.

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