Nelson Symonds, a native of Hammond's Plains, Nova Scotia, was born in 1933. His association with music began at nine, when he took an interest in the banjo, and two years later, the guitar, a steel body acoustic guitar from his uncle. Practicing diligently between chores on the family farm, by the time he had reached seventeen he departed to Sudbury, Ont., to live with his uncle John, a saxophonist. By day Nelson worked with his uncle at a garage; at night and on weekends they would play the local clubs.
In 1955, a carnival arrived in Sudbury, and Nelson began jamming with its musicians. Both Nelson and his uncle were invited to join them, touring state fairs in the U.S. and Canada. After three intensive years on the road, Nelson found himself in Montreal, and he's made it his home base ever since. He's played with the best. It was in 1960 that Nelson was a member of the Canadian All-Stars, in Milwaukee, at the Basin Street Club. It was here that Nelson first met Roland Kirk, who subsequently played with the band.
In 1962, Symonds was called to Buffalo, New York, to play for Brother Jack McDuff. The audition went well and Symonds should have played on the organist's next record, but without a work permit, he couldn't stay, and George Benson made the session instead, making his first break. For the past three decades, Symonds has been working almost continuously at clubs such as Le Vieux Moulin, La Tête De L'art, Lindy's, The Black Bottom, Café La Bohème, Rockhead's Paradise and Biddle's. For many renowned musicians visiting Montreal, Miles Davis included, checking out Nelson Symonds live is usually on the itinerary. While it is remarkable that he hasn't been recorded until now, he was the subject of an exceptional documentary film by Mary Ellen David, "Nelson Symonds, Guitarist".