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Down Memory Lane with Arden Nelson (Old Peterite) Combo

Posted on 07 November 2013 by admin


Arden Nelson is a name synonymous with music in the sixties in Colombo. Many from this era would recall the Arden Nelson Combo with familiarity for having played for your engagement, wedding or other social functions you attended. Many old Peterites here in Canada would ofcourse remember the galaxy of musicians that walked the same hallways as us and later became stars in the music field in Sri Lanka and overseas. Arden was one such star. He was a quieter person, not the typical hyped up musician but a talented musician who had a passion to contribute to the evolving music scene in Colombo at the time. He formed the Arden Nelson Combo in the early 60s and played the Saxophone. The combo comprised of Arden on Sax, Lester Weinman on Piano, Tissa Jayatileke on Trumpet, Geoff Labrooy on Drums and another who dabbled with a skiffle base.

The initial influence that fashioned the Arden Nelson Combo was music made famous by the Dutch Swing College Band who had big hits like ‘Ice Cream’, ‘Marina’, and ‘Tennessee Waltz Rock’. The overall characteristic sound of the Dutch Swing College Band required a string instrument such as a ‘Banjo’ and after searching around Arden found an unknown banjo player by the name of Raddy Ferreira who brought his talent into the group. The Combo had gigs at most night clubs and dances in those days. It did not take long for Raddy to make it ‘big’ on his own. As time went by, the Arden Nelson Combo scame to be known as ‘The Musical Comets’ and later to ‘Raddy Ferreira Combo’. Raddy switched to Piano after Lester Weinman won a Dufferin Scholarship and left the band to go to India for Marine Engineering studies. Travis Koch joined the band and did well with his Double Bass and Stanley Ranasinghe replaced Tissa Jayatileke playing the alto saxophone. With Arden Nelson playing the saxophone the band soon developed its trademark sound – the twin saxophone sound of Billy Vaughan Orchestra. Another Peterite Darrell de Silva, joined the band later on bass guitar. Stanley Ranasinghe was replaced by another Peterite Anton de Mel.

Incidentally, Darrell de Silva, Anton de Mel and Lester Weinman were all class mates of this writer and we shared some fond times together. Arden and Raddy were school mates – a class higher or junior, I cannot recall at present. But we used to walk to college from the Bamba Flats.

The band’s popularity increased and it was booked for weddings and dances at the Taprobane Hotel, Ceylinco House and Rugby Clubs such as Havelocks and CR & FC. The band had a good run till mid-sixties and split when Arden, Raddy and Darrell left for greener pastures and emigrated to Australia. In Melbourne, Arden focused more on his studies (Accounting) and played occasionally with his buddy Darrell de Silva’s band ‘Good Vibrations’ and a few other bands. Now he gets together with other musicians of the sixties era and plays Jazz Music, according to news from our classmate at St. Peter’s College – Darrell de Silva.

Arden is married to Marcia and the couple have four children – son Graham and three daughters and a few grandchildren. Recently, Arden (shown with his sax) celebrated his 70th birthday with family and friends. From what this writer learns, guests were enthralled to hear the golden sounds coming from the Saxophone played by Arden who had assembled a few of his old musical buddies and entertained the crowd to pretty good dance music. At this impromptu get together, his cousin Geoff Labrooy was on Drums, France Smith on rhythm guitar, Dallas Achilles on Trumpet, Rodney Jansz on lead guitar and Darrell de Silva on bass guitar. Birthday boy Arden Nelson had thrilled the guests with his Saxophone and the band had blended excellently.

Arden and Marcia visited Toronto about five years back and this writer had the pleasure of taking the couple to the Connections-55 dance organized by Archie and Wendy Keil. The Sri Lankan Anchorman takes this opportunity to extend our belated wishes to Arden for his October milestone birthday just passed. We wish him well.

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