About Oswald "Ozzie" George Nelson
Ozzie and Harriet TV Show
In the early 1930s, a booking at the Glen Island Casino landed Ozzie Nelson's orchestra national network radio exposure. After three years together with the orchestra, Ozzie and Harriet signed to appear regularly on The Baker's Broadcast (1933-1938), hosted first by Joe Penner, then by Robert L. Ripley and finally by cartoonist Feg Murray.
The couple married on October 8, 1935 during this series run, and they realised working together in radio would keep them together better than continuing their musical careers might have done.
The Nelsons joined the cast of The Red Skelton Show in 1941, with Ozzie and Harriet also providing much of the show's music and the couple staying with that NBC series for three years. They also built their radio experience by doing guest shots (together and individually) on top radio shows, from comedies such as The Fred Allen Show to (perhaps unusually) the mystery titan "Suspense."
Ozzie Nelson was prompted to create his own family situation comedy and "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" launched on CBS on October 8, 1944 (their 9th wedding anniversary). This show eventually moved to television, and even helped launch their son Ricky Nelson as a rock and roll star.
Oswald George Nelson, known professionally as Ozzie Nelson, was an American entertainer and band leader who originated and starred in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet radio and television series with his wife and two sons. Although it was never a top-ten hit, it became synonymous with the 1950s ideal American family life making him the Crown Prince of TV sitcom dads. It is the longest-running "live-action"/non-animated sitcom in US TV history.
He was the second son of George Waldemar and Ethel Irene (Orr) Nelson of Swedish and English decent. Raised in Ridgefield Park. He graduated from Ridgefield Park High School, where he played on the American football team. The street Nelson grew up on is now named after him. Nelson became an Eagle Scout at 13 and was a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He graduated from Rutgers University, where he also played football despite his slight build.
Ozzie started his entertainment career as a band leader. He formed and led the Ozzie Nelson Band, and had some initial limited success. He made his own 'big break' in 1930. 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. They edged out Paul Whiteman and were pronounced the winners.
From 1930 through the 1940s Nelson's band recorded prolifically—first on Brunswick (1930-1933), then Vocalion (1933-1934), then back to Brunswick (1934-1936), Bluebird (1937-1941), Victor (1941) and finally back to Bluebird (1941-through the 1940s). Nelson's records were consistently popular and in 1934 Nelson enjoyed success with his hit song, "Over Somebody Else's Shoulder" which he introduced. Nelson was their primary vocalist and (from August 1932) featured in duets with his other star vocalist and future wife, Harriet Hilliard.
In 1935, Nelson and His Orchestra had a number one hit with "And Then Some", which was number one for one week on the U.S. pop singles chart. He composed several songs, including "Wave the Stick Blues", "Subway", "Jersey Jive", "Swingin' on the Golden Gate", and "Central Avenue Shuffle."
Nelson had speaking parts on Red Skelton's program and other radio series of the '40s, wherein he displayed a hitherto untapped gift for comic delivery. This led to the Nelsons' own weekly radio starrer in 1944, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which related the humorously fictionalized home life of a popular bandleader, his wife, and their two very young sons (Ozzie's own kids Ricky and David were impersonated by professional child actors in the first few years of the program, but eventually strong-armed Nelson into letting them play themselves). Typical of the era were the radio show's wisecracking dialogue and musical interludes; but when Nelson and Hillard entered television in 1952, the series opted for gentler, more realistic comedy. The year prior to the TV show's debut, Nelson and entourage appeared in a Universal-International picture, Here Come the Nelsons, which is worth noting if only for the presence in the cast of Rock Hudson and the fact that it was directed by future Tonight Show mainstay Fred De Cordova. Here Come the Nelsons was only a modest success, but the Nelson and Hillard TV series was an unadulterated hit, running 14 seasons. Though there were endless joking speculations as to what TV's Nelson did for a living on a series, the "real" Nelson produced, directed, edited the stories, chose the wardrobe, supervised the casting, and even designed the main "home" set to look like the real Nelson living room.
Unlike his stammering, scatterbrained TV image, Nelson was a stern and well-organized taskmaster, seeing to it that Nelson and Hillard conformed to his image of what a good TV show should be, rather than the usual TV status quo. One of the byproducts of Nelson and Hillard was the spectacular singing career of son Ricky Nelson, and the less spectacular but prolific directing career of Rick's brother David. By the time Nelson and Hillard entered the '60s, Rick's then-wife Kris Nelson (daughter of sports great Tom Harmon and actress Elyse Knox, and brother of film star Mark Harmon) had joined the cast...as Rick's wife Kris. The series finally breathed its last in 1966, but workaholic Nelson stayed busy with stage appearances and a supporting role in the very non- Nelson and Hillard sexy film comedy The Impossible Years (1968).
Cashing in on the nostalgia craze of the early '70s, Nelson revived his series with a new title: Ozzie's Girls had Nelson and Hillard renting out Ricky and David's old rooms to a pair of nubile female college students. Squeezed off the network schedules at the last minute, Ozzie's Girls was syndicated to local stations in 1973, but lasted only one season, as much the victim of changing tastes as inaccessible timeslots. Shortly before his death, Nelson Nelson published his autobiography, in which he shocked many of his Bible-belt fans by revealing that he was a lifelong atheist.
Ozzie Nelson's Timeline
March 20, 1906
Jersey City, NJ, USA
October 24, 1936
New York, NY, USA
May 8, 1940
Teaneck, New Jersey, United States
June 3, 1975
Hollywood, CA, USA