Andy T and Nick Nixon Bio
The Andy T-Nick Nixon Band, fronted by guitarist Andy T and vocalist Nick Nixon, displays musicianship at its highest. As Blues Underground Network said, “Simply put, Andy T and James ‘Nick’ Nixon have quickly risen to the top of many people’s lists of Great Collaborations.”
Their new release on Blind Pig Records, Numbers Man, was produced by renowned Texas guitarist Anson Funderburgh, and features the great Kim Wilson’s harmonica on one of the tracks.
Guitarist “Andy T” Talamantez arrived in Nashville from Southern California in 2008 and teamed up with local blues and R&B legend vocalist/guitarist James “Nick” Nixon in 2011. After meeting Nick and watching him perform, Andy knew that they would make an unstoppable combination. As Ted Drozdowski of the Nashville Scene put it, “When Andy first heard Nick, he knew he’d found his foil for the group he envisioned — an outfit that could swing effortlessly between West Coast jump blues stompers, hardcore Chicago and Texas string-fests, and Louisiana swamp grooves.”
Andy T’s jazz-tinged guitar style is influenced by T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, Magic Sam, and Albert Collins among others, yet it remains his own. He was born and raised in Southern California and was always interested in guitar. He worked for twenty-three years as a manufacturing engineer in the aerospace industry but during that entire time he never stopped performing in local bands. In 1997 he quit his day job to join and tour with Smokey Wilson’s band. That lasted for two years, after which he played in Guitar Shorty’s band for a period of five years. During that time he toured internationally and performed with a long list of major blues artists around the country, learning how to back up a vocalist with economy and perfection as he honed his own playing style.
The velvet-voiced Nixon, whose singing recalls Jimmy Witherspoon and Billy Eckstine, was born and raised in Nashville, where got his first taste of singing through the gospel tunes he learned every Sunday in church. In high school, he sang opera. The choir director, a famous opera singer, “found out I had this voice and he had me singing opera. It was kind of put on me and I really didn’t like that style of music,” Nixon says. “But I did it and the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was to un-do that opera-style singing when I started in with rock-n-roll and the blues. But I did learn a lot of voice control (singing opera) that I still use now. The clarity of opera is something that I still use, too, but I just put in more gravel, a little more dirt with it when I’m singing the blues.”
Nixon quickly went on to become an important part of the musical mix in Nashville and something of an institution in the Music City. In the early 60’s he was the lead singer for the popular group King James and The Sceptres – one of Music City’s first integrated bands. They would play co-bills with the likes of Lazy Lester, Rufus Thomas, and Cootie Stark, to name a few. Nick was also a long-time member of The New Imperials, a soul group with a forty-five year history, performing with many of the top blues and R&B artists in the world.
Nixon was part of the thriving Jefferson Street blues scene of the 60’s, and is a key figure in the reviving Nashville blues scene today. He’s performed regularly at civic functions and even sung before thousands at the Riverfront Park, accompanied by the Nashville Symphony.
In the 70’s Nixon fronted a pair of successful local groups – Past, Present & Future, which recorded for Chess Records, followed by NTS Limited, which included Billy Cox.
Nick produced an album for gospel legends the Fairfield Four in 1989. That same year he began the release of a number of albums under his given name, James Nixon. His first three releases were gospel recordings – Don’t Wait Too Late, a cassette-only release, Me, Myself and the Lord in 1997, which was named “Best Gospel Album of the Year” by Behind the Scenes, a radio trade publication. This was followed by the release of Stand Up in 1999.
In 2002 Nick began his career as a blues recording artist with the release of No End To The Blues on the Black Magic label. He followed that with Back Down South in 2005 and Heavy Load and Live In Europe in 2010. In 2011 Nixon appeared in director Mario Van Peebles’ film Redemption Road. His performance of “Rising Son Blues” is on the film’s soundtrack.
But maybe even more important than all that, Nixon has always been involved in helping to perpetuate the blues, as a guitar teacher and mentor to many of the city’s aspiring young players through Nashville’s Parks and Recreation Department. This behind-the-scenes effort even earned Nixon a Keeping the Blues Alive (KBA) award from the Blues Foundation in 2000.
Despite such a varied and successful career in the music business, Nixon is still remembered by many as a friend and sometime stage mate of the late, great Jimi Hendrix. Nick befriended Hendrix and his pal (and later to be Band of Gypsies member) Billy Cox when they arrived in Nashville in the early ’60s. Says Nixon, “I met Billy and Jimi around the same time, in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. When they got out of the army, they moved to Nashville and got ‘em a little room there. You’d see Jimi just out walking the streets with his guitar…he just loved that thing. All Jimi wanted to do was just woodshed and play that guitar.”
To this day Nick often writes and performs with his good friend, Cox. Says Nixon, “Billy’s a good person to be around and really, Jimi was, too.” In fact, Nixon recorded a single (“Over 50 Blues”) in 1995 with Cox and his friend Scotty Moore, Elvis’ guitarist.
The Andy T-Nick Nixon Band has released two critically acclaimed albums on the Delta Groove label, both of which were produced by Anson Funderburgh.
Their debut CD, Drink Drank Drunk, was released in 2013. Music Row said, “Nixon’s deep-blues vocal delivery and Andy’s stinging guitar chops are fabulous together throughout their CD…They will rock your world.” Elmore magazine added, “These veterans may be new names to you but not for long.” The album found its way onto almost everyone’s “Best of 2013” list and was nominated for a Blues Blast Music Award for best “New Artist Debut Release.”
The following year the band released their second CD, Livin’ It Up, which was nominated for a Blues Music Award as “Best Traditional Blues Album,” as well as a Blues Blast Music Award in the same category.
Elmore magazine said, “This band swings oh so soulfully! Traditional blues lovers listen up – your blues is here as fresh as ever. Nick has one of those unmistakably killer blues voices, capable of growling and crooning within the same song. But, for the most part their sound is very smooth, anchored by the clean, T-Bone Walker guitar style of Andy T.”
Living Blues stated, “It all adds up to a blues-rich yet stylistically diverse set, infused with joy and enriched by impeccable musicality—from beginning to end.”
Even though he’s now in his 70s, Nixon’s voice still has all the power and energy of a man half his age and it’s crystal clear that this man was born to sing the blues. Combined with Andy T’s bold, vibrant tones and equally rooted guitar style, it makes for a uniquely satisfying brand of soulful blues.
The blues has a history of great partnerships, and Numbers Man offers proof positive that Andy T and Nick Nixon belong in that select group.