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Finding aid to the Sonny Nelson Papers SFH 78 1956-2009
SFH 78  
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Newspaper clippings, photos, magazines, writings, correspondence, ephemera, and audio recordings documenting the work and interests of jazz musician and night club owner Sonny Nelson. Much of the collection is about the San Francisco North Beach night club the Cellar (aka the Jazz Cellar; active about 1956 - 1960), a birthplace of jazz poetry. A lesser portion of the collection covers Nelson's second North Beach jazz club, the Boule Noire (active about 1960 - 1963).
Sonny Nelson (Jan. 6, 1928 - Sept. 24, 2009), born Wayne E. Nelson, was a multi-instrumental jazz musician (primarily drums) and part-owner of two jazz clubs in San Francisco’s North Beach district, the Cellar (1956 - 1960) and the Boule Noire (1960 - 1963), which saw a fusion of jazz and poetry performance during the Beat era. His early life appears to have been spent in the Minnesota Twin Cities area and he passed away in Los Angeles. Sonny assisted with the club operations of the Cellar and shared duties of being the drummer of its house band, the "cellar jazz quartet," featured on the LP by poets Kenneth Rexroth and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Poetry Readings in the Cellar” (Fantasy Records 7002, 1957), where he is credited as “Sonny Wayne – Drums.” Sonny travelled throughout the U.S. as a musician and there are references in the collection to his having lived in Minneapolis, Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans, and finally Los Angeles at the end of his life. His friends included jazz poet Ruth Weiss and poet Rod McKuen. An undated resume for Sonny Nelson in Venice, CA, lists work in feature films, television programs, and commercials, as well as minor film roles.
1 box (0.5 linear feet)
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.
The collection is available for use during San Francisco History Center hours, with photographs available during Photo Desk hours. Collections that are stored offsite should be requested 48 hours in advance.