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Nelson Young / the Sandy Valley Boys

Cincinnati, 1940s - 2000s


1964 band: L-R Jimmy Fee, Nelson Young, George Robinson, ?

Nelson Young had a 50+ year career playing country and bluegrass music. To the general public he is best known for bringing authentic bluegrass music to Disney World in Orlando, but here at Buckeye Beat we are most interested in his pre-Florida career

He was born and raised in Kentucky but moved to Cincinnati in the early 1950s. He started the first of many versions of the Sandy Valley Boys, the band name he used through the 1980s. Like many of his early country peers, he got started in the post WWII country music boom, while most of his contemporaries had their own radio show, Nelson went for TV, with a show on Cincinnati's WCPO TV, starting no earlier than 1954. The show was hosted by Jim Stacy and featured the Cornhuskers, a band with Nelson, Glenn Scott, Jesse Kidd (on banjo), Little Freddie Lane, Jeanie Hogan (singer) and other various players. 


In 1956 Nelson began playing with the Sandy Valley Boys, on upright bass and fiddle. The band was led, or co-led, by guitarist Don Boone. The other members are not known to us. In 1958 he recorded a couple 45s, his first recordings. One of the 45s was recorded for Lucky and includes his most famous song "Rock Old Sputnik". Nelson was pretty much a pure country musician but on "Sputnik" he goes for a hard rockabilly sound with a classic theme from the times. His other 1958 45 (not sure which record was first) was released on Starday.

Nelson and the Sandy Valley Boys continued their active live performances through the end of the decade and into the 1960s. He recorded a a 45s fo the Madison label in Richmond, Kentucky in 1960. He is also credited on a 45 by The Big Whopper. It's possible that Nelson is the vocal on that record, the name William Jett also appears.

Around 1960, a series of super budget EP records was issued by the Rite operation. Each EP has 6 songs - in poor fidelity - and Nelson has sereval recordings scattered across a bunch of the releases. While the records were pressed around 1960, the recordings could have been done earlier.


The last couple Ohio based records were recorded by Nelson and the band for the Ark label. Over time the Sandy Valley Boys had changed members and at the time of the Ark recordings the members included George Robinson (guitar) and Jimmy Fee (banjo), with Nelson playing fiddle. The pic from 1964 shows a fourth, unnamed, member. 

The band played a Cincy telethon in April of 1964. By July 1964 they had moved to Orlando, FL. A later story says thay Nelson had visited the area and liked it so much he moved there. The band played central Florida for many years while the members got on with their lives.

It's hard to imagine a time when Disney World and the dozens of other attractions in central Florida didn't exist but before 1971 they did not. When Disney World opened that year, the Sandy Valley Boys got a major career restart when they were booked by the park to be a house bluegrass band. They played in the park, adopting the look of a band that just stepped out of a holler. The band was so well received that they took on another park gig as a live version of the Country Bears. The Country Bears originated as an animatronic show, very cutting edge for the time. The live version had the Sandy Valley Boys wearing bear suits and head coverings and playing the 'hits' from the original show. 


The Sandy Valley Boys, in various lineups and locations, played into the 1990s, with Nelson being the one constant member. They made a couple more 45s and a couple albums. 

Nelson passed away in 2014.

Don Boone, who did not make the move to Florida, had a change in musical style and adopted the teen rock sound in his mid 1960s band Don Boone and the Indians. Glenn Scott adopted the Corn Huskers name for his band and made a few 45s


Rock Old Sputnik / I'm Falling In Love - Lukcy 0002, 1958
So Easy To Fall In Love / Sunrise - Starday 341, 1958
The Divorce Court / No Love But Yours - Madison 300-2, 1960
(the Big Whopper) Is It A Wonderful Dream / Charlie Brown's Mule - Madison 300-3, 1960
Home At Christmas / Christmas Time Is Near - Ark 302, 1963
To Mom And Dad / Burning Bridges - Ark 310
Love Is Coming Back To Me / Back Home In Memories - Enola 310, 1964
Ode To An Unknown / The Big Pipeline - Vetco 526, June 1975
LP- Hard Road To Travel - Vetco 3021, 1975
The Old Time Things Are Gone / Home-Spun Memories - Grassroots Unlimited 71-11, c. 1980

(Various songs on Big 6 EPs) Hand Me Down My Walkin' Cane ; Worried Man Blues, Careless Love ; I'm Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail, Old Slew Foot ; Driving Nails In My Coffin ; Where We'll Never Grow Old ; Unclouded Day