Hello: If you grew up in the 50’s it was hard not to know our feature artist today. He was born Eric Hilliard Nelson in May of 1940. You could say he grew up in front of you on the Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, 1952-66. With his father Ozzie, mother Harriet and brother David, Ricky and family brought us a half-hour of 50’s family TV.
So it was no surprise that in 1957 Ricky made his singing debut on the TV show. His very first record for the Verve Record label was a double-sided top 10 hit, “A TEENAGER’S ROMANCE”, #2 and the rock side “I’M WALKING”, #4. What a start. START being the key word because he was just getting started. Later in ’57 Ricky signed with Imperial Records and started a string of hits that would run through 1963.
Some of those Imperial hits are: Be-Bop Baby-1957, Stood Up-1957, Believe What You Say-1958, Poor Little Fool, a #1 hit in1958 (my personal favorite), Lonesome Town-1958, It’s Late-1959, Travelin’ Man a #1 hit in 1961 and its flip side Hello Mary Lou. There are so many more just for Imperial alone. In fact 43 hit records and many albums made the Billboard Music Charts.
In 1963, Rick, as he was then called signed with Decca Records where another string of top 100 hits began with, You Don’t Love Me Anymore. Later that year he released a great version of Fools Rush In, a #12 hit and back to the top 10 with, For You, reaching #6. In all Rick charted 20 hit records for Decca topping the list off with his “GARDEN PARTY,” in 1972. That song, written by Rick went up the charts to #6, selling over a million copies along the way and being the last top 10 record in his career.
Rick Nelson just didn’t sing rock music. He was one of the first to record what became known as “country rock”. In 1969 he formed the Stone Canyon Band. He was in the movies, “Rio Bravo”, with John Wayne, Dean Martin and Walter Brennan is a true western classic. He married Kristin Harmon (sister of actor Mark Harmon) in 1963, they divorced in 1982. His daughter Tracy is an actress and his twin sons Gunnar and Matthew formed the rock band Nelson in 1990.
Rick was elected to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987. He died with members of his band in a plane crash on New Years Eve, 1985. Rick was 45 years old. He left a legacy of hit records, TV shows and movies in his lifetime. In all Rick charted 63 songs on the top 100. He is listed as one of the all time top hit-makers of the rock era.