I read a bio of him called Teenage Idol-Travelin Man.
His last years were pretty sad also.
Eric Hilliard "Ricky" Nelson was born on May 8, 1940, in Teaneck, New Jersey. He was the second son of Ozzie Nelson, the leader of a big band, and Harriet Hilliard Nelson, the band's singer. Ricky was the wise-cracking younger sibling in the long-running television series "Ozzie and Harriet," which ran on radio and TV from 1944-1966. Along with older brother David, the family was a huge hit on television. But little could anyone imagine in the early days what fate had in store for Ricky.
As the story goes, Ricky was dating a girl who was an Elvis Presley fan, when Ricky remarked to her that he, too, could sing. The girl laughed at him, and so to impress her, Nelson found a drug store recording booth and recorded a song he had written, "I'm Walkin'."
"My dad was kind of shy, because he knew that anything he said or did around the house might end up as an episode on the show," said Ricky Nelson's son, Matthew. "Singing was his way of expressing himself without anyone knowing about it. He would sit in the closet in his room and sing his songs, and after he recorded "I'm Walkin' " he would only listen to it in there.
"But then my grandfather happened to hear him playing it one day, and asked him 'Who is that?' My dad said 'Well, it's me, Pop.' My grandfather thought it would make a great episode, and so he had dad sing it at the end of one of the shows."
That was in 1957, and suddenly Ricky Nelson was on his way to becoming the first real American teen idol.
"Ozzie was smart enough to cut a deal with Verve Records after that, and the song sold a million copies in a week," Matthew said. "It was a phenomenon. What some people don't realize, though, is that my dad was so serious about his music. There were no such things as producers or agents then, young singers had to produce themselves. And he knew what he was doing."
From 1957 to 1962, Nelson had 30 top-40 hits, more than any other artist at the time except Elvis. Many of Nelson's early records were double hits, with both the A side and the B side hitting the billboard charts.
While Nelson preferred "Rockabilly" and uptempo rock songs like "Hello Mary Lou." "It's Late," "Stood Up," and "Be-Bop Baby," his smooth, calm voice made him a natural to sing ballads. He had major success with "Travelin' Man," "Poor Little Fool," "Young World," "Lonesome Town," and "Teenage Idol," which clearly could have been about Ricky himself at the time. The 1964 hit "For You" would be his last top 40 song until 1970, when he recorded Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me" with the Stone Canyon Band. In 1972, he would hit the top 40 one last time with "Garden Party," a song he wrote in disgust after a Madison Square Garden audience booed him when he tried playing new songs instead of his old hits from the 1950s and '60s.
Rick Nelson also had his demons. By the late 1970s, he had gone through divorce, he wasn't making records, and his live appearances were infrequent. According to many sources he began using drugs, primarily marijuana.
But in 1985, he joined a nostalgia rock tour of England, and the resulting success revived interest in his music. He had just begun an American revival tour when he died in a plane crash in De Kalb, Texas on New Year's Eve, 1985. He was on his way to a concert in Dallas. The last song he sang on stage was Buddy Holly's "Rave On."
"One of the songs I remember most is "Easy To Be Free," Matthew said. "It was a mid-chart success, and most people don't know it. It's very Dylanesque - Bob Dylan and dad were good friends - and when I play it, I can see what it does to an audience. For a long time it was something I just kept for myself, and never played in public. I sang it at his memorial service, and it's something that makes me miss him a lot less.
"It's been 20 years; I can't believe that it's been so long since he's been gone," Matthew said. "I was 18 when he passed away, and dad was my best friend. We bonded through music, and every time I play I feel that we're closer still."
I read a bio of him called Teenage Idol-Travelin Man.
His last years were pretty sad also.
I love watching the old "Ozzie And Harriet" shows have a bunch on DVD. The show is very very simple and I like that. It is not deep in any way shape or form. Just fun.
Ricky is also one of my favorite Elvis contemporary singers. He has the look of a typical all american boy pack with talent.
"The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" Ricky Nelson and his older brother David were on the show as -their kids. They literally grew up on tv and its some great family entertainment. But I have to warn you many find it- corny.
I'm right at home in corny. After Rick began his singing career he sang many times on the show(worked into the plot of course)
Are there any pics of Elvis and Ricky together?
Thanks, for posting Jen!
I always felt that Ricky was a more tortured soul than Elvis was even. He was a nice looking man, had an interesting singing voice, not the quality of Elvis for sure, but pleasant. I don't remember him with much of a sense of humor.
Yes that is sad KPM to die just when you are getting your head back together again.
Even Johnny Cash was disappointed with the country music scene at some time. It's not due to a lack of quality or anything like that, it's simply because of corruption. Johnny was happy to find this guy named Rick Rubin and was able to keep on doing his thing, without minding the corpocracy too much. It still takes stinging-nettle,- or cactus kind of character to keep your artistic independence. I think Elvis would have been happiest doing the songs he loved the most without minding hit-potential too much, had he lived. His name would still have drawn an audience, although it wouldn't be like 1956, of course.
Last edited by EnigmaticSun; 09-17-2007 at 02:09 PM. Reason: minor error
all the goons I left behind, memories still linger..
I was not trying to point out the size of one's shows.
What I did mean to point out is that Elvis still would have drawn a large crowd, but I do think the 'shape' or content of a concert by a 72 yo Elvis would have been different from that of a 21 or 22 yo Elvis, had he lived. That's because people age and develop.
Elvis' 70's were more about live shows rather than hit potential, though some records did pretty well. I do think Elvis would have been unhappy just chasing hit potential.
Last edited by EnigmaticSun; 09-18-2007 at 02:01 PM. Reason: minor error
all the goons I left behind, memories still linger..
Yes I think 76 and 77 he was not worried about hits, he sang best what he felt. The few songs which truely meant something to him were the ones he did best.
"Rick tore into a procession of his old hits, some, like "Poor Little Fool" and "Lonesome Town," worked up especially for the occasion, feeding the Garden crowd the pure nostalgia they came to hear. But when Rick took off his gutiar and stepped to the piano for the next-to-last tune of his twelve-song set, an incident took place in the remote seats of the far upper balcony that changed the tone of the evening for him and the band.
The cheap seating sections near the rafters, painted blue and referred to as blue heaven, were a notorius nesting place of rowdies looking to raise hell at hockey matches, basketball games, and rock ocncerts. The security guards chose this moment to clear an entire section of drunken fans in these rear seats, and the crowd raised a lusty roar at the police action. These boos coincided with Rick's sitting down at the piano to play, "Honky Tonk Women," a number from his "Rudy The Fifth" album and a recent hit by the Rolling Stones. Some of the people down front took the balcony booing as a cue to express displeasure at this departure from a rigid oldies program and picked up the boos. "There is no such thing as a quiet boo," said (Ralph) Nader.
Rick came offstage shaken. "It was shivering," said Kemp, all these people booing. We were all upset. Rick kept saying, 'I knew we shouldn't have done it.'" A few minutes later, a security guard came into the dressing room and explained the real reason for the booing, and the mood in the band room changed to a relieved giddiness.
About six months later, a song jelled in Rick's head. He stayed up all night finishing it. "I ended up writing it on one piece of paper," said Rick. "I didn't want to get up. It just started happening. I really heard the instrumentation exactly as I wanted it to sound and, at the end, I had a Carl Perkins-type ending on it. It was all just there."
"I remember falling asleep listening to Pop play the piano," Rick's daughter, Tracy, recalled, "cause the music room was right below me. And one morning I went downstairs to go to school at about seven, and I knocked on the door. It took a while for him to answer. I said, 'What are you doing, Pop?" He said, 'I got up about three in the morning and I've been writing this song, "Garden Party," and I've been writing all night. I haven't been able to stop. I just felt compelled to write it." Later on we used this as an example of what it means to be an artist. Sometimes things just come through you. He said that night he felt he was given a gift. The music just came through him.
In May 1972 Rick and the band went into the studio to record "Garden Party" and a few other songs. He got the band members to agreee to stick to the story about what had happened that night at the Garden. No mention would be made of the police clearing out drunken fans to ruin the drama of the story. Rick knew he had something. He insisted the record company release the cut as a single immediately. Decca Records had been merged with other labels into a conglomerate called MCA Records, and undoubtedly many of the new company's executives didn't even know they had Rick Nelson under contract. The record wouldn't have gone anywhere without some extraordinary cooperation from the record label. His cousin Willy Nelson now managed him. Willy Nelson, son of Ozzie's older brother, Al, had been a singer himself and also had been part of a vocal group that appeared on TV's "Shindig" called the Shindogs. He also worked in management with Del Shannon and Brian Hyland.
Cousin Willy went to meet with Rich Frio, vice president in charge of marketing at MCA, to discuss the single. "He poured out his heart to me," said Frio, "what Rick's feelings really were, what the record meant. It put everything in perspective for me. I was in a very powerful position at the company. While Willy sat there, I put together a conference call with all thirty of my promition men. I told them I was going to go to lunch with Willy Nelson at the Universal commissary, and when I got back from lunch, I wanted them each logging in with at least one radio station. Lo and behold, when I got back, the calls were coming in."
What Frio put in motion didn't stop until the single of "Garden Party" climbed all the way to number six on the charts. It was one of the most unprecedented comeback hits in the history of rock music."
(The rest of the details are pretty graphic so I will not post them here...and I apologize if I got carried away and posted too much information...all I will say is that Selvin's book says that the remains of the passengers were burned so badly that identification had to be made through dental records and it took two hours for the fire department to stop the flames and even then it took nearly ten hours for the plane to cool down long enough for the victims to be removed)."The flight went quietly. Rich and Helen (Blair) curled up on opposite benches and slept in the rear of the cabin. The other band members either dozed or rested quietly under blankets. Bobby Neal joined copilot Ken Ferguson in the cockpit for a while, as pilot Rank ambled through the passenger cabin, talking with Pat Woodward about commercial flights from Dallas to Los Angeles since Woodward had recently moved to Dallas and would be staying behind for a couple of weeks after the New Year's gig.
About three hours into the flight, Rick complained to Rank about being cold, and Rank told his copilot toturn on the heater. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to make the heater work from the cockpit, Rank went back into the aft of the cabin to try to make the heater work.
"He signaled for me to turn it on or he came up front and told to turn it on or whatever," Ferguson later testified. "This happened several times. One of the times I refused to turn it on. I was getting nervous. I didn't think we should be messing with the heater en route. I had discussed this with him on previous flights. He turned it on again." Pat Woodward came into the cockpit. "There is smoke in the cabin," he told Ferguson.
Rank later said he went back to the cabin and noticed some smoke curling around where Rich and Helen were asleep. He went back to investigate the heater and found it cool to his touch. He nevertheless activated one of the built-in fire extinguishers and opened fres-air inlets on his way back through the cabin. Woodward helped him. Rick and Helen woke up startled to see wisps of smoke filling the plane.
Ferguson was already on the radio, beginning communications with Forth Worth and changing the palne's direction to reroute it to Texarkana airport. Rank resumed his seat behind the controls , and the two began to make preparations for landing.
In less than a minute, the "little problem" Ferguson mentioned to the Forth Worth tower turned into catastrophe. Black smoke boiled into the cockpit. The control panel was no longer visible, and they were choking and gagging on the smoke. The front window was stained. Rank broke out his side window and leaned out so he could see. Ferguson broke out his, and the open window acted like a chimney, drawing flames around him. He stuck his body out the window, to close down the chimney effect, and burned his hand while reaching for the lever that controlled the flaps. They began looking for an open space to make an emergency landing. Texarkana was out of the question.
Smoke in the cabin was so thick that Rank could no longer see his copilot. He saw a highway but discarded the idea of trying a landing there because there were ditches and power lines on both sides. He found the Joneses' cow pasture and brought the airplane down on the field, clipping phone wires as he flew over Debbie Potters house and made a nearly perfect three-point landing. It all happened so fast, nobody had time to react on anything more than instinct. Less than four minutes after first advising Forth Worth they were in difficulty, the plane rolled to a crashing halt in a patch of trees at the far side of the field. Rank climed out of his window. Inside the plane all he could see was flames and black smoke.
Ferguson tumbled head-first out of his side and staggered away from the plane, afraid of an explosion. Badly burned and dazed by shock, he was sitting in the field when Rank ran up to him. "Dont say anything about the heather," Rank said. "Don't say anything about the heater."
The bodies of road manager Clark Russell and Bobby Neal were located in the compainionway between the cockpit and the cabin. Rick and Helen were found together a few feet behind with Pat Woodward nearby Andy Chapin and Ricky Intveld lay slighty forward of mid-cabin.
Sadly, there are no pics of Elvis and Rick together.....
Last edited by Tony Trout; 09-18-2007 at 04:27 PM.
Rick had tasted the success in the 50s and wanted it again pure and simple. He wanted to be taken serious for his songwriting talents and he did have talent IMO. But after "Garden Party" he really just never got on track with a direction for his music. He hated the Ricky Nelson image-Rick Nelson is who he wanted to be. Its understandable- the conflict in that.
I like this guy......that's all i have to say
Jen, thanks for the article