About Eric "Ricky" Hilliard Nelson
American singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, and actor Eric "Ricky" Hilliard Nelson was one of the very biggest of the '50s teen idols. With more than 50 Hot 100 hits, Nelson was second only to Elvis Presley as the most popular rock and roll artist of the 1950s and 1960s. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 21, 1987.
Nelson entered professional entertainment before his tenth birthday, when he appeared with father Ozzie (once a jazz musician), mother Harriet, and brother David on a radio comedy series based around the family. By the early '50s, the series was on television, and Ricky grew into a teenager in public. He was just the right age to have his life turned around by rock & roll in 1956 and started his recording career almost accidentally the following year. The story's sometimes been told that he had no professional singing ambitions until he recorded his debut single to impress a girlfriend. The single, a cover of Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin'" that went to number four, was helped immensely (as all of his early singles would be) by plugs on the Ozzie & Harriet TV show.
So far the script was adhering to the Pat Boone teen idol prototype -- a whitewash of an R&B hit stealing the thunder from the pop audience, sung by a young, good-looking fella with barely any musical experience to speak of. What happened next was easy to predict commercially but surprisingly satisfying musically as well. Nelson was a fairly hip kid who preferred the rockabilly of Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley to the fodder dished out for teen idols, and over the next five years he would offer his own brand of rockabilly music, albeit one with some smooth Hollywood production touches and occasional pure pop ballads. Nelson recruited one of the greatest early rock guitarists, James Burton, to supply authentic licks (another great guitarist, Joe Maphis, played on some early sides). Some of his best and toughest songs ("Believe What You Say," "It's Late") were written by Johnny and/or Dorsey Burnette, who had previously been in one of the best rockabilly combos, the Johnny Burnette Rock 'n Roll Trio. Ricky could rock pretty hard when he wanted to, as on "Be-Bop Baby" and "Stood Up," though in a polished fashion that wasn't quite as wild and threatening as rockabilly's Southern originators.
Nelson really hit his stride, though, with mid-tempo numbers and ballads that provided a more secure niche for his calm vocals and narrow range. From 1957 to 1962, he was about the highest-selling singer in the U.S. except for Elvis, making the Top 40 about 30 times. "Poor Little Fool" and "Lonesome Town" (1958) were early indications of his ballad style; in the early '60s, "Travelin' Man," "Young World," "Teen Age Idol," and other hits pointed to a more countrified, mature style as he honed in on his 21st birthday (by which time he would shorten his billing from "Ricky" to "Rick"). He could still play rockabilly from time to time, the most memorable example being "Hello, Mary Lou" (co-written by Gene Pitney), with its electrifying James Burton solos.
Nelson was lured away from the Imperial label by a mammoth 20-year contract with Decca in 1963 (which would be terminated prematurely in the mid-'70s), and for a year or so the hits continued, at a less frenetic pace. Early-1964's "For You," however, would be his last big smash of the '60s. The fault wasn't all the Beatles and changing music trends -- on both singles and albums, much of the material was either substandard pop or dusty Tin Pan Alley standards, although isolated tracks still generated some sparks. He wasn't exactly starving, as he continued to appear on Ozzie and Harriet. But by the mid-'60s even that institution was declining in popularity, leading to its cancellation in 1966.
Nelson had a strong country feel to much of his material from the beginning, and by the late '60s it was becoming dominant. He covered straight country material by the likes of Willie Nelson and Doug Kershaw and formed one of the earliest country-rock groups, the Stone Canyon Band, with musicians who had played (or would play) with Poco, Buck Owens, Little Feat, and Roger McGuinn. A cover of Bob Dylan's "She Belongs to Me" made the Top 40 in 1970, but his country-rock outings attracted more critical acclaim than commercial success, until 1972's "Garden Party." A rare self-composed number, based around the frosty reception granted his contemporary material at a rock & roll oldies show, it became his last Top Ten hit.
Nelson would continue to record off and on for the next dozen years and toured constantly, yet he was unable to capitalize on his assets. A big part of the problem was that although Nelson wanted to play contemporary music, he didn't write much of his own material, which was a basic precept of self-respecting rock acts after the advent of the Beatles. Nor did he tap into good outside compositions, and there's little of interest on the albums he recorded over the last decade or so of his life. He died (along with his fiancée) in a private plane crash on December 31, 1985, on his way to a New Year's Eve gig in Dallas, at the age of 45.
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Full Name : Ricky Nelson
Date of birth : 8 May 1940
Place of birth : Teaneck, New Jersey, USA
Date of death : 31 December 1985
Place of death : De Kalb, Texas, USA. (plane crash)
Birth name : Eric Hilliard Nelson
Height : 6' 1
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* Brother of actor/director, David Nelson
* Rick was engaged to Helen Blair at the time of his death. She was killed in the plane crash with him and his band.
* Father of Tracy Nelson, Matthew Nelson, Gunnar Nelson and Sam Nelson.
* Son of Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Hilliard.
* Interred at Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, California, USA, on the right as you walk in, on the steep slope under the third tree, two rows above Ozzie and Harriet.
* Johnny Cash wrote the song "Restless Kid" for Ricky to sing in Howard Hawks's "Rio Bravo." However, music director Dimitri Tiomkin insisted that Nelson perform the folk song "Cindy" and Tiomkin's own "My Rifle, My Pony and Me." Cash's evocative "Restless Kid, " which sums up Ricky's "Rio Bravo" character Colorado in less than two minutes, never appeared in the film. Instead, it was released on Nelson's third album, "Ricky Sings Again" (Imperial LP 9061 [mono]/Imperial LP 12090 [stereo], 1959).
* Brother-in-law of Mark Harmon
* When Rick Nelson appeared at The Rock Revival at Madison Square Garden in 1971, he was unaware that he was to appear in clothing from the era of the height of his popularity. Not aware of this he appeared in contemporary clothing and was booed because of this. Afterwards, and as a result of this, he wrote the hit song, "Garden Party".
* Elected to the Rock and Roll Hall Fame in 1987.
* One of the most popular teen idols on the late 1950s and early 1960s, his many hit records, primarily on the Imperial and American Decca labels, include "I'm Walkin'," "Travelin' Man," "Poor Little Fool," "For You," "Fools Rush In," "It's Late," and "Garden Party." Most of these songs were originally introduced on the "Ozzie and Harriet" TV show.
* Ever since Rick his death in a private plane crash on New Year's Eve, 1985, it has long been speculated that the fire that caused the crash was the result of drug use, either by Nelson himself or by one of his crew. This theory has since been discredited by, among other sources, the Civil Aeornautics Board in their official report on the crash. Their evidence shows that the cause originally given for the crash (an on-board heater short-circuiting and catching fire) is the correct one.
* Ranked #2 in TV Guide's list of "TV's 25 Greatest Teen Idols" (23 January 2005 issue).
* He was voted the 91st Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Artist of all time by Rolling Stone.
* Was the first teen idol to use television as a way to promote hit records. His version of "I'm Walkin' " made #4 on the Billboard singles chart and sold over a million copies after he performed it on TV.
* His hit single "Garden Party," which in the fall of 1972 reached #6 and went gold, was about his experience during a Madison Square Garden concert. In fact, when in that song he sang "But if memories were all I sang, I'd rather drive a truck," he meant it.
Ricky Nelson (also Rick Nelson) (May 8, 1940 - December 31, 1985) was one of the first American teen idols.
Born Eric Hilliard Nelson (Hilliard was his mother's maiden name), he began his career on the radio, with his family on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet. The show soon moved to television. Ricky began a rock and roll career in 1957. Apocryphally, he recorded his debut single, the Fats Domino song I'm Walkin', in order to impress his girlfriend; the song was a hit. It was clear, however, that he knew and loved music before breaking out as a performer.
He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Unlike most teen idols of the time, Nelson worked with some great musicians, including James Burton, Joe Maphis, and Johnny and Dorsey Burnette. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Nelson was one of the highest-selling singers, second only to Elvis Presley. In 1963, Nelson signed a 20-year contract with Decca Records, but he had no further major hits after 1964's For You. 1972's Garden Party, a self-penned country song bewailing his fans' unwillingness to hear him play new music, was a moderate success, but he never regained his career's momentum.
Ricky Nelson also appeared in films such as Rio Bravo (1959) and Love and Kisses (1965).
He died in a plane crash in De Kalb, Texas in 1985, on his way to a New Year's Eve concert in Dallas, Texas and was interred in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. The crash was due to mechanical problems.
Ricky Nelson has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1515 Vine Street.
His father, Ozzie Nelson, had a big band and his mother was his singer. His twin sons, Gunnar and Matthew Nelson, also were teen idols, performing as Nelson, and his daughter Tracy Nelson is an actress.
Ricky Nelson's Timeline
May 8, 1940
Teaneck, New Jersey, United States
April 20, 1963
December 31, 1985
De Kalb, Texas, USA