Family Tree Tuesday – Ricky Nelson
Ricky Nelson was an American singer-songwriter, instumentalist, and actor. He played himself in the radio sitcom series, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in 1949 which was the start of his entertainment career and he appeared in his first feature film, Here Come the Nelsons in 1952. In 1957, he recorded his first single, debuted as a singer on the television version of the sitcom, and recorded a number one album, Ricky. Nelson was the first teen idol to utilize television to promote hit records. His father Ozzie Nelson even had the idea to edit footage together to create some of the first music videos, which can be seen in videos Ozzie produced for “Travelin’ Man.”
Nelson was born Eric Hilliard Nelson on May 8, 1940 in Teaneck, NJ to Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Hilliard. He played football at Hollywood High School and represented the school in interscholastic tennis matches. He joined the Rooks, a greaser car club of sideburned high school teens clad in leather jackets and motorcycle boots in retaliation as he was blackballed by the Elksters, a fraternity of a dozen conservative sports-loving teens who thought him too wild. Many of the Elksters were family friends and spent weekends at the Nelson home playing basketball or relaxing around the pool. Twenty-five years later, he told the Los Angeles Weekly he hated school because it “smelled of pencils” and he was forced to rise early in the morning to attend.
Ozzie Nelson was an American entertainer and big band leader who originated and starred in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet along with his wife and two sons. His paternal grandparents were Swedish and his mother was of English decent. He was raised in Ridgefield Park, NJ and graduated from Ridgefield Park High School, where he played on the football team. In the early 1990s, Ridgefield Park named a street after him, where the current high school is located. Ozzie Nelson became an Eagle Scout at 13 and was a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. Ozzie formed and led the Ozzie Nelson Band and made his own “big break” in 1930 when the New York Daily Mirror ran a poll of its readers to determine their favorite band. He knew that news vendors got credit from the newspaper for unsold copies by returning the front page and discarding the rest of the issue. Gathering hundreds of discarded newspapers, the band filled out ballots in their favor and they were pronounced the winners.
Harriet Hilliard‘s birth name was Peggy Lou Snyder and was an American singer and actress. She was performing in vaudeville when she met Ozzie Nelson who hired her to sing with his band and they married three years later. She appeared in three feature films, the most famous being the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical Follow the Fleet.
Ricky’s older brother David Nelson was an American actor, director, and producer. He attended Hollywood High School and was a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity while attending the University of Southern California. David directed several espisodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. He started his own commercial production company.
Ricky married American primitive painter, actor, and author Sharon Kristin “Kris” Harmon, the daughter of football legend Tom Harmon and actress Elyse Knox, and the older sister of actress Kelly and actor Mark Harmon. The Nelson’s and the Harmon’s had long been friends and a union between their children held great appeal. Rick and Kris married in 1963 which Rick later described as a “shotgun wedding.” Nelson who was a non-practicing Protestant, received instruction in Catholicism at the insistence of the bride’s parents, and signed a pledge to have any children of the union baptized in the Catholic faith.
Did you know Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky all have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Ozzie’s is located at 6555 Hollywood Boulevard, Harriet’s is located at 6801 Hollywood Boulevard, David’s is located at 1501 Vine Street and Ricky’s is located at 1515 Vine Street.
Check out Ricky Nelson’s family tree and see how you’re related!