Pianist and vocalist Nellie Lutcher was born on October 15, 1912 in Lake Charles Louisiana. Her parents were both musicians; her father played the bass and her mother the piano. She started piano lessons at age 6 and by age 8 she was playing both piano and organ at the local church.
When Nellie was 12 years old, the legendary Ma Rainey came to Lake Charles for an engagement but her pianist fell ill and the 12-year-old Nellie Lutcher took his place.
At age 14 she joined her father in Clarence Hart's Imperial Jazz Band and a few years later she married the band's trumpet player, a marriage that lasted only two months.