Irv Nelson 

"Swervin" Irvin Nelson is our keyboard player. He also plays bass on songs that have no keyboard part, and sings many of our lead vocals.

Irv has been playing keyboards since the age of eight. He plays all types of keyboard instruments, including grand piano; Wurlitzer and Rhodes electric pianos; Hammond, Vox, and Farfisa electric organs; many varieties of analog and digital synthesizers (including vintage Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 and Yamaha DX7 synths); modern sampling keyboards; and even pipe organs! Irv understands music theory exceptionally well.  He can read sheet music, and can also play by ear just about any song after hearing it once or twice...  in fact, even when hearing a song for the first time, he can often play along with the recording in real time with amazing accuracy after hearing just the first two chords. Irv also has a rare talent for the technical side of keyboards and knows how to dial in great sounds.

In addition to The Fender Benders, Irv plays piano and other keyboards for artists from a wide spectrum of genres, such as Margie Johnson, Cristina Edlund, and Brandon & Kenzie Lee.  In addition to keyboards, Irv has played acoustic guitar for many years (currently he plays guitar in Relic Acoustic Band, as well as solo gigs).  Always looking for a new challenge, at the age of 50 Irv taught himself to play bass guitar, and at 60 he taught himself to play electric guitar.  He is a guest artist with many other groups, including the USU choral groups.  He is also a tenor vocalist who has performed with many bands and in many choirs, as well as on stage as an actor.  His hard work on vocal training pays off: amazingly, many people have commented that his voice today (in his 60s) sounds better than ever before.  He is also a choral conductor.  Finally, he is a composer and arranger, whose pieces have received widespread acclaim and have been performed by groups ranging from the Utah State University's Chamber Singers in Logan, Utah to Real Colegio Escuelas Pias' Coral Veles E Vents in Gandia, Spain to a chamber choir in Manchester, UK named Duodecimo to a pan flute player in Bolivia named Fernando Espindola, as well as many other groups all over the world (Indonesia, New York City, India, Canada, etc.)  Much of his sheet music is available for free download at irvnelsonmusic.com.

For his "day job," Irv teaches private piano, guitar, bass, and vocal lessons. His innovative approach to piano lessons is unique in Cache Valley, teaching ear training, chord theory, making and reading chord charts, improvisation, transposition, arranging, and composing, in addition to reading music. He allows students to choose the songs they want to play, ranging from pop to country to rock, or jazz standards, or classical, or whatever genre the student loves most. His approach to vocal lessons is likewise unique to the valley, focusing on contemporary rather than classical style and teaching techniques to free the larynx from tension and strain, allowing the student to slip between chest and head voice without a noticeable break. Because students enjoy his teaching style and make fast progress, Irv has a full calendar and a waiting list, with very low student turnover. (Check out his teaching web site at irvnelson.com)

As a child, Irv had eight years of classical piano lessons, but he frustrated his teachers because, instead of working on the Chopin or Bach that had been assigned for the week, he would spend most of his practice time figuring out how to play popular rock songs. He'd spend hours each night in bed (when his parents thought he was asleep) with his "transistor radio" pressed against his ear, listening to 1320 KCPX radio: The Beatles, Monkees, Rolling Stones, CCR, and so on. The next day, Irv would sit at the piano and figure out how to play those songs by ear. Several years later, the rock piano greats Billy Joel and Elton John had a profound influence on Irv's musical style.

Irv started composing music in 5th grade. In 6th grade, he wrote and arranged a piece for his elementary school orchestra. He recorded his first song (with a 2-track reel-to-reel recorder borrowed from his uncle) in 7th grade. In junior high, he played viola in the school orchestra, and in high school he sang with the concert choir. In college, he sang with the University of Utah A'Cappella Choir and was assistant conductor of the Salt Lake Institute Concert Choir. He put himself through college (with no student loans) with money earned solely from musical performances. 

Irv has played keyboards in rock bands since 1975 in California, Nebraska, and Utah, including one of the top bands in the Salt Lake area in the early 1980s. Here's a couple of photos of of Irv performing in about 1982 (playing a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 synthesizer stacked on a Yamaha CP70b electric grand piano - exactly the same setup as Journey's keyboard player used in those days):



Here's a picture of Irv (playing a Yamaha YC-30 organ into a Leslie 147 rotating speaker amp, stacked on a dyno'd  Rhodes Stage 73 Mark II electric piano) playing in a band in Lincoln, Nebraska, during his Ph.D. program in 1991:

In years past, Irv has owned many other vintage instruments and amps, including a Yamaha YC-45D (yes, including the pedals), a Yamaha DX7, several Rhodes pianos, a highly modified Leslie 770, and others.

Today, Irv no longer plays 100% vintage instruments. That's because most of his old, vintage keyboards weighed more than his house. Irv is very thankful for modern technology. In recent years he has played through three generations of amazing professional Kurzweil sampling synthesizer keyboards: the K2Vx, then the K2661, and at this moment is currently converting to the newest and greatest Kurzweil ever, the PC3K6. Each of these keyboards weighs about 35lbs, and does FAR more than all his old, back-breaking, boat-anchor keyboards put together. Each generation has sounded better than the last, but all of them have sounded fantastic -- especially when played through Irv's circa-1975 Fender "Bassman Ten" combo amp that has been highly modified with fantastic preamp tubes (a vintage Jan Phillips 12AX7 and a new production Mullard 12AX7/ECC83), a pair of enormous Electro-Harmonix KT88EH power tubes, beefy Eminence Beta speakers, and a titanium tweeter. Because he is a sonic purist and a technical inventor, Irv also uses a true rotating organ speaker based on an old MTI Rotophaser that has been highly modified based on his own schematic design that sounds identical to a Leslie 122/147 but is much smaller, that when powered with his tube amp makes fantastic Hammond organ sounds. His Vox, Wurlitzer, Rhodes, Roland, Prophet 5, and acoustic piano sounds are also amazingly authentic. Irv also owns a Yamaha P-155 electronic piano that sounds like a 9 foot concert grand.  Irv's craziest toy is a late-1980's era Casio AZ-1 "keytar" MIDI controller keyboard that he has modified with an internal cordless MIDI transmitter that allows him to play guitar-style:

 

Irv loves playing bass on songs that have no keyboard parts. Irv's main "axe" at Fender Benders gigs is a fantastic sounding Yamaha TRBX304 with Elixir Nanoweb strings. He also plays a genuine Fender Jazz modified with with a "Badass" bridge and super-bright DR Silver Stars strings for that recognizable, punchy, "j-bass" sound, as well as a gutsy, 5-string, Ibanez SRX505TK with fat-sounding "humbucker" pickups and Elixirs. Irv also owns other basses, including a fretless Ibanez SR400FL with flatwound D'Addario XL Chromes strings for a warm, semi-acoustic tone, and an acoustic-electric Breedlove Studio BJ350/SMe4 acoustic-electric bass guitar with D'Addario EXP Phosphor Bronze strings.  His brand new bass amp is an amazing TC Electronic RH750, with a 12AX7 preamp using a JJ ECC803S tube, played into "pre-Fender" SWR Goliath III 4x10 and SWR Big Ben 1x18 cabinets.

For non-musical fun, Irv enjoys motorized winter and water sports. To see how crazy Irv is, CLICK BELOW...

Irv's Snowmobile Video

This video gives a very short taste of the kind of band we are and the music we play (2 minutes)