Ricky Nelson

Born: May 8, 1940
Died: December 31, 1985

Ricky Nelson grew up in show business. Ozzy and Harriett Nelson, a successful husband-and-wife comedy team, had a successful radio show based on their lives. They reluctantly brought in their real-life sons, David and Ricky, to play themselves in the situation comedy. Both boys had the natural ability to perform, but little Ricky was always going off by himself, quietly listening to music or reading. In 1947, after a successful movie entitled “Here Comes the Nelsons,” the Nelsons were offered a weekly one-hour television show called “The Adventures of Ozzy and Harriett.” Ricky quickly became the most popular character, with his catch phrase “I don’t mess around, boy.” And America watched Ricky grow up on tv. More and more of the episodes resembled Ricky’s real-life situations, and featured his musical and athletic abilities. By the late 50’s, however, rock and roll was taking America by storm, and Ricky’s sites turned to cutting a record. He covered Fats Dominoes’ “I’m Walkin’,” and it sold like hotcakes. Parents deemed Ricky Nelson favorable, because he was a decent white kid doing music that would otherwise be taboo. All of the sudden, Ricky Nelson became one of America’s first teen idols. Ricky had an all-star band to back him, and his records received much airplay from the radio stations. With hits like “Hello Mary Lou,” Ricky Nelson remained a sensation well into the 60’s. By 1962, however, the music scene was undergoing change, and Ricky Nelson was too cheesy when compared to the likes of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Soon, too, the Ozzy and Harriett show was finally coming to an end, and Ricky was getting married. Changes in his life forced him to think about a solo career, and he soon changed his tune from teen-angst love rock to a smoother form of country music commonly known as “California country.” He began to gig and play his new music, and he gigged the Madison Square Garden with 50’s acts like Chuck Berry. When he came out in bell bottoms and long hair, he began playing his new folk-country-rock music, and people practically booed him off the stage. It devastated Ricky, but he went home that night and wrote the words to “Garden Party,” which reflect the experience. In 1967, Gunnar and Matthew Nelson were born, and Ricky was thrilled. Ricky’s family was growing, and he was proving people wrong who called his music career luck. He was drawing influence from people like Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, as well as the Eagles and Poco. Throughout the 70’s, Ricky released many albums, with several reformations of his backup band. In 1985, however, Ricky’s life came to an end when his airplane crashed while en route to New York for the New Year’s Eve show.

Instruments Played / Skills:
Vocals Guitar Songwriter

Early Rock Traditional Pop

Ricky Nelson Has Worked With:
James Burton John Beland
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"I don't go onstage with some kind of messianic vision or anything. I'm basically going out there hoping my guitar is in tune."

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