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Loris singer brings sax to the CCMA’s; Kindred honored, too

Chris Nelson with the tools of his trade, above, and below with his band during their CCMA performance. (Contributed photos)


     Chris Nelson says he wants to bring sax to country music, and he took a big step in that direction during Saturday’s Carolina Country Music Awards in North Myrtle Beach.

     A Loris resident recently relocated from North Carolina, Nelson and his band were honored with the Country Music Video of the Year award for Working Man Heroes during the CCMA’s.

     Nelson’s band was edged out of the Michael Comer Emerging New Artist award by Kindred, the duo of South Columbus High alum Dustin Chapman and current student Ryleigh Madison.

     Kindred was also named Duo of the Year by the CCMA.

     As solo artists and together, Chapman and his niece Madison have been making names for themselves locally and beyond for several years now. Both were American Idol contestants, though Chapman did not appear on the broadcast.

     Nelson is beginning to make his mark on country music, and joined his girlfriend Madison Tompkins of Conway to make their home in the Loris area.

Music scene

     “We’ve lived here just more than a year, and we’ve been making strides at the beach, playing locally, starting to play regionally,” Nelson said. “We’re planning a lot more, tours, going to Texas.”

     Nelson said he’s one of many musicians in his family, thought notably not his father. More on that in a bit.

     Born and reared in Clinton, Nelson was introduced played clarinet and saxophone in the public schools, graduated from Clinton High in 2012, focused on music and jazz studies at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke until 2016, then began teaching for a private company at colleges and universities.

     “We put on music clinics for high school age musicians, wrote curriculum, taught courses,” he said.

     Now 29, Nelson said he felt the pull of the stage and found the promise of a fresh start with Madison.

     “We finally decided to make that move and live together,” Nelson said.

     He’s collected a band along the way, The Chris Nelson Band including:

  • Nicholas Vernon of Raleigh, acoustic and rhythm guitar
  • John Nowiski of Fayetteville, bass
  • Nate Shipp of Fayetteville, drums
  • Stephanie Sullivan of Myrtle Beach who, Nelson said, “sits in on the violin. She’s a fiddler.

    “I play lead guitar, sing lead, and play saxophone,” Nelson said.

     Saxophone is important, and Nelson brings it into his music as often as he can, including during his CCMA performance Saturday.

     “I’m bringing the sax into country music in a way that it hasn’t been done before,” Nelson said.

     There is precedent, Nelson said, from country music legend Merle Haggard.

     “He had a tenor sax player,” Nelson said. “I play tenor sax. He loved the horn. I tell people if it was good enough for Merle Haggard, it’s good enough for me.”

     Haggard, incidentally, had a hit in 1969 with the song Working Man Blues.

Blue collar inspiration

     “My dad’s not musical at all,” Nelson said with a laugh. “He couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.”

     Working Class Heroes, the CCMA Country Video of the Year, is a tribute not only to Nelson’s father, but to all of the blue collar workers who toil every day.

     “It’s more than just a song and a video at this point,” Nelson said. “It’s a family heirloom to us.”

     Nelson’s dad is revealed in the video opening as a big garage door lifts, revealing the heavy recovery wrecker business that has fed the family for decades.

     “It’s an anthem for the blue collar man,” Nelson said. “If you ever work a 40 or 50 hour week like that, you know what that means.”

     See the video here.

     He may not be musically talented, but Nelson said his father has taken immense pride in the song and video, and the tribute from his son.

“It’s kind of like every dad’s dream to be a bad ass,” Nelson said. “It really hypes my dad up in the most major way.”

     Landing the CCMA Nelson said, was emotional for both father and son. Pushing through the crowd, Nelson presented the award to his father.

     “I said ‘here’s a paper weight for your desk,’” Nelson said. “I think it meant the world to him, definitely.”

Moving on

     Nelson and his band are playing every chance they get, pushing new music including Color Inside of My World and 59 Years, Almost 60.

     For more on the band, its music and performance dates, visit the Christopher Nelson Facebook page here.