Rick Nelson: Wikis


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Ricky Nelson

Background information
Birth name Eric Hilliard Nelson
Born May 8, 1940(1940-05-08)
Origin Teaneck, New Jersey, U.S.
Died December 31, 1985 (aged 45)
De Kalb, Texas, U.S.
Genres Rockabilly, Rock 'n' roll, Pop, Folk, Country
Occupations Actor, Musician, Singer
Years active 1949 – 1985
Labels Imperial, Decca (MCA), Epic
Associated acts Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, Connie Francis, Carl Perkins, James Burton
Website http://www.rickynelson.com/

Ricky Nelson or, Rick Nelson (born Eric Hilliard Nelson; May 8, 1940 – December 31, 1985), was an American singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, and actor. He placed fifty-three songs on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1957 and 1973, including nineteen top-ten hits,[1] and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 21, 1987.[2]

Nelson began his entertainment career in 1949 playing himself in the radio sitcom series, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and, in 1952, appeared in his first feature film, Here Come the Nelsons. 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. In 1958, Nelson recorded his first number one single, "Poor Little Fool", and, in 1959, received a Golden Globe Most Promising Male Newcomer nomination after starring in the western film, Rio Bravo. A few films followed, and, when the television series was cancelled in 1966, Nelson made occasional appearances as a guest star on various television programs.

Nelson and Sharon Kristin Harmon were married on April 20, 1963, and divorced in December 1982. They had four children: Tracy Kristine, twin sons Gunnar Eric and Matthew Gray, and Sam Hilliard. On February 14, 1981, a son was born to Nelson and Georgeann Crewe. A blood test in 1985 confirmed Nelson was the child's father. Nelson was engaged to Helen Blair at the time of his death in an airplane crash on December 31, 1985.


Early life

Ricky Nelson was born the second son of big band leader Ozzie Nelson who was of Swedish descent and his wife, big band vocalist Harriet Hilliard Nelson (née Peggy Louise Snyder), on May 8, 1940 at 1:25 p.m. at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, New Jersey.[3][4][5] Harriett remained in Englewood, New Jersey with her newborn and her older son, David while Ozzie toured the nation with the Nelson Orchestra.[6] The Nelsons bought a two-story Colonial in Tenafly, New Jersey,[6][7] and, six months after the purchase, moved with son David to Hollywood, California where Ozzie and Harriet were slated to appear in the 1941-42 season of Red Skelton's The Raleigh Cigarette Hour; Ricky remained in Tenafly in the care of his paternal grandmother.[8] In November 1941, the Nelsons bought what would become their permanent home: a green and white, two-story, Cape Cod Colonial at 1822 Camino Palmero in Los Angeles.[9][10] Ricky joined his parents and brother in Los Angeles in 1942.[9]

Ricky was a small, sickly, high-strung, insecure, towheaded child subjected to severe asthma. At night, his sleep was eased with a vaporizer emitting tincture of evergreen.[11] He was described by Red Skelton's producer John Guedel as "an odd little kid", likable, shy, introspective, mysterious, and inscrutable.[12] When Skelton was drafted in 1944, Guedel crafted the radio sitcom, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, for Ricky's parents.[12][13] The show debuted on Sunday, October 8, 1944 to favorable reviews.[14][15] Ozzie eventually became head writer for the show and based episodes on the fraternal exploits and enmity of his sons.[16] The Nelson boys were first played in the radio series by professional child actors until twelve-year-old Dave and eight-year-old Ricky joined the show on February 20, 1949 in the episode, "Invitation to Dinner".[17][18]


Nelson attended Gardner Street Public School,[19] Bancroft Junior High,[20] and Hollywood High School between 1954 and 1958 from which he graduated with a B average.[21][22][23] He played football at Hollywood High[21][22] and represented the school in interscholastic tennis matches.[24] Twenty-five years later, Nelson 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.[21]

At Hollywood High, Nelson was blackballed by the Elksters, a fraternity of a dozen conservative sports-loving teens who thought him too wild.[25][26] Many of the Elksters were family friends and spent weekends at the Nelson home playing basketball or relaxing around the pool.[26] In retaliation, he joined the Rooks, a greaser car club of sideburned high school teens clad in leather jackets and motorcycle boots.[26][27] He tattooed his hands, wrist, and shoulder with India ink and a sewing needle, slicked his hair with oil, and accompanied the Rooks on nocturnal forays along Hollywood Boulevard randomly harassing and beating up passersby.[26][27] Nelson was jailed twice in connection with incidents perpetrated by the Rooks, and escaped punishment after sucker-punching a police officer only through the intervention of his father.[27] Nelson's parents were alarmed. Their son's juvenile deliquency did little to enhance the All-American image of Ozzie and Harriet and they quickly put an end to Ricky's involvement with the Rooks by banishing one of the most influential of the club's members from Ricky's life and their home.[24] One of Ricky's seldom publicized traits was his fierce loyalty to boyhood friends whom he regarded as trusted confidants. When young friend Bill Aken was in a crippling auto accident in New York City and confined to a hospital bed for months, Ricky would often phone Billy's mother asking about his progress and writing short notes and letters to Billy to cheer him up[citation needed].

Ozzie Nelson was a Rutgers alumnus and keen on college education,[28] but eighteen-year-old Ricky was already in the 93-percent income-tax bracket and saw no reason to attend.[22] At thirteen, Ricky was making over $100,000 per annum and, at sixteen, he had a personal fortune of $500,000.[29] Nelson's wealth was astutely managed by parents who channeled his earnings into trust funds. Although his parents permitted him a $50 allowance at the age of eighteen, Rick was often strapped for cash, and, one evening, collected and redeemed empty soda bottles to gain entrance to a movie theater for himself and a date.[30] Like many born to wealth, Nelson had a cavalier attitude toward his finances and never learned to manage money.[25]

Music career



Nelson played clarinet and drums in his tweens and early teens, learned the rudimentary guitar chords, and vocally imitated his favorite Sun Records rockabilly artists in the bathroom at home or in the showers at the Los Angeles Tennis Club.[31][32][33] He was strongly influenced by the music of Carl Perkins and once said he tried to emulate the sound and the tone of the guitar break in Perkins's March 1956 Top Ten hit, "Blue Suede Shoes".[32][33]

At sixteen, Nelson wanted to impress a friend who was an Elvis Presley fan, and, although he had no record contract at the time, told her that he, too, was going to make a record.[31][34][35][36] With his father's help, Nelson secured a one-record deal with Verve Records, a fledgling label looking for a young and popular personality who could sing or be taught to sing.[35][36][37][38] On March 26, 1957, Nelson recorded the Fats Domino standard "I'm Walkin'" and "A Teenager's Romance" (both released in late April 1957 as his first single), and "You're My One and Only Love".[38][39]

Before the single was released, Nelson made his television rock and roll debut on April 10, 1957 lip-synching "I'm Walkin'" in the Ozzie and Harriet episode, "Ricky, the Drummer".[40][41] About the same time, he made an unpaid public appearance as a singer at a Hamilton High School lunch hour assembly in Los Angeles with the Four Preps and was greeted by hordes of screaming teens who had seen the television episode.[42][43]

"I'm Walkin'" reached number four on Billboard's Best Sellers in Stores chart, and its flip side, "A Teenager's Romance", hit number two.[35][43] When the television series went on summer break in 1957, Nelson made his first road trip and played four state and county fairs in Ohio and Wisconsin with the Four Preps who opened and closed for him.[44]

First album, band, and number one single

In early summer 1957, Ozzie Nelson pulled his son from Verve after disputes about royalties, and signed him to a lucrative five-year deal with Imperial Records that gave him approval over song selection, sleeve artwork, and other production details.[45][46] Ricky's first Imperial single, "Be-Bop Baby", generated 750,000 advance orders, sold over one million copies, and reached number three on the charts. Nelson's first album, Ricky, was released in October 1957 and hit number one before the end of the year.[47] Following these successes, Nelson was given a more prominent role on the Ozzie and Harriet show and ended every two or three episodes with a musical number.[48]

Nelson grew increasingly dissatisfied performing with older jazz session musicians who were openly contemptuous of rock and roll. After his Ohio and Minnesota tours in the summer of 1957, he decided to form his own band with members closer to his age.[49] Eighteen-year-old electric guitarist James Burton was the first signed and lived in the Nelson home for two years.[50] Bassist James Kirkland, drummer Richie Frost, and pianist Gene Garf completed the band.[51] Their first recording together was "Believe What You Say". Rick selected material from demo acetates submitted by songwriters. Ozzie Nelson forbid suggestive lyrics or titles, and his late-night arrival at recording sessions forced band members to hurriedly hide their beers and cigarettes. The Jordanaires, Presley's back up vocalists worked for Nelson but at Presley's behest were not permitted credit on Nelson's albums.

In 1958, Nelson recorded sixteen-year-old Sharon Seeley's "Poor Little Fool" for his second album Ricky Nelson released in June.[52][53] Radio airplay brought the tune notice, Imperial suggested releasing a single, but Nelson opposed the idea, believing a single would diminish EP sales. When a single was released nonetheless, he exercised his contractual right to approve any artwork and vetoed a picture sleeve.[52][54] On August 4, 1958, "Poor Little Fool" became the number one single on Billboard's newly instituted Hot 100 singles chart,[55][56] and sold over two million copies.[52] Nelson so loathed the song he refused to perform it on Ozzie and Harriet.[52] Seeley claimed he ruined her song by slowing the tempo.[55]

During 1958 and 1959, Nelson placed twelve hits on the charts in comparison with Presley's eleven. During the sitcom's run Ozzie Nelson, either to keep his son's fans tuned in or as an affirmation of his reputed behind-the-scenes persona as a controlling personality, kept his son from appearing on other television shows that could have enhanced his public profile, American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show in particular.[55] In the summer of 1958, Nelson conducted his first full-scale tour and averaged $5,000 nightly. By 1960, the Ricky Nelson International Fan Club had 9,000 chapters around the world.[57]

Nelson was the first teen idol to utilize television to promote hit records. Ozzie Nelson even had the idea to edit footage together to create some of the first music videos. This creative editing can be seen in videos Ozzie produced for "Travelin' Man."[citation needed] Nelson finally did appear on the Sullivan show in 1967, but his career by that time was in limbo. He also appeared on other television shows (usually in acting roles). In 1973, he had an acting role in an episode of The Streets of San Francisco, in which he played the part of a hippy flute-playing leader of a harem of young prostitutes. In 1979, he guest-hosted on Saturday Night Live, in which he spoofed his television sitcom image by appearing in a Twilight Zone send-up, in which, always trying to go "home", he finds himself among the characters from other 1950s/early 1960s-era sitcoms, Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best, Make Room for Daddy, and I Love Lucy.

Nelson knew and loved music, and was a skilled performer even before he became a teen idol, largely because of his parents' musical background. Nelson worked with many musicians of repute, including James Burton, Joe Osborn, and Allen "Puddler" Harris, all natives of Louisiana, and Joe Maphis, The Jordanaires, Scotty Moore and Johnny and Dorsey Burnette.

From 1957 to 1962, Nelson had thirty Top-40 hits, more than any other artist at the time except Presley (who had 53) and Pat Boone (38). Many of Nelson's early records were double hits with both the A and B sides hitting the Billboard charts.

While Nelson preferred rockabilly and uptempo rock songs like "Believe What You Say" (Hot 100 number 4), "I Got A Feeling" (Hot 100 number 10), "My Bucket's Got A Hole In It" (Hot 100 number 12), "Hello Mary Lou" (Hot 100 number 9), "It's Late" (Hot 100 number 9), "Stood Up" (Hot 100 number 2), "Waitin' In School" (Hot 100 number 18), "Be-Bop Baby" (Hot 100 number 3), and "Just A Little Too Much" (Hot 100 number 9), his smooth, calm voice made him a natural to sing ballads. He had major success with "Travelin' Man" (Hot 100 number 1), "A Teenager's Romance" (Hot 100 number 2), "Poor Little Fool" (Hot 100 number 1), "Young World" (Hot 100 number 5), "Lonesome Town" (Hot 100 number 7), "Never Be Anyone Else But You" (Hot 100 number 6), "Sweeter Than You" (Hot 100 number 9), "It's Up To You" (Hot 100 number 6), and "Teenage Idol" (Hot 100 number 5), which clearly could have been about Nelson himself.

In addition to his recording career, Nelson appeared in movies, including the Howard Hawks western classic Rio Bravo with John Wayne and Dean Martin (1959), plus The Wackiest Ship In the Army (1960) and Love and Kisses (1965).

On May 8, 1961 (his 21st birthday), Nelson officially changed his recording name from "Ricky Nelson" to "Rick Nelson". However, not too long before his untimely death, Nelson realized a dream of his. He met his idol, Carl Perkins, who, while musing that they were the last of the "rockabilly breed", addressed Nelson as "Ricky". In 1963, Nelson signed a 20-year contract with Decca Records. After some early successes with the label, most notably 1964's "For You", a number-6 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, Nelson's chart career came to a dramatic halt in the wake of The British Invasion.

In the mid-1960s, Nelson began to move towards country music, becoming a pioneer in the country-rock genre. He was one of the early influences of the so-called "California Sound" (which would include singers like Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt and bands like the Eagles). Yet Nelson himself did not reach the Top 40 again until 1970, when he recorded Bob Dylan's "She Belongs to Me" with the Stone Canyon Band.

"Garden Party"

"She Belongs to Me" was followed on the charts by "Easy to Be Free", Nelson's first self-composed hit single. Both tracks were featured on "Rick Nelson In Concert", recorded at the Troubadour club in Los Angeles, and released in 1970. This was Nelson's first charting album in 5 years, and was followed by "Rick Sings Nelson", consisting entirely of songs Rick wrote. "Rudy the Fifth" (1971) also relied heavily on Nelson's writing, but failed to chart, despite excellent reviews in the rock press. In 1972, Nelson reached the Top 40 one last time with "Garden Party", a song he wrote in disgust after a Madison Square Garden audience booed him when he tried playing new songs instead of just his old hits. He wanted to record an album featuring original material, but the single was released before the album because Nelson had not completed the entire Garden Party album yet. "Garden Party" reached number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and was certified as a gold single. The second single release from the album was "Palace Guard", which reached number 65 in the charts.

Nelson was with MCA at the time, and his comeback was short-lived. Nelson's band soon resigned, and MCA wanted Nelson to have a producer on his next album. His band moved to Aspen and changed their name to "Canyon". Nelson soon put together a new Stone Canyon band, and began to tour for the Garden Party album. Nelson still played nightclubs and bars, but soon advanced to higher-paying venues because of the success of "Garden Party". In 1974 MCA was at odds as to what to do with the former teen idol. Albums like Windfall failed to have an impact. Nelson became an attraction at theme parks like Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland. He also started appearing in minor roles on television shows.

Nelson tried to score another hit, but was not having any luck with songs like "Rock and Roll Lady". With seven years to go on his contract, MCA dropped him from the label.

Nelson studied Karate earning a brown belt, before going on to learn Jeet Kune Do under Dan Inosanto. Inosanto described Nelson as a "good martial artist for those times".[58]


Nelson liked wholesome, clean-cut women, and dated Hollywood starlets,[59] but, inexplicably, was also attracted to and became deeply involved with troubled types from dysfunctional families.[60] N

Nelson said his first "love affair" was when he was a fourteen-year-old vacationing overseas with family and his partner a London woman rounded-up by his brother and an American friend.[61][62]

First loves

Nelson was seventeen when he met and fell in love with Marianne Gaba, a midwestern beauty queen who arrived in California for the Miss Universe Pageant. She appeared on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show,[63] and auditioned for and won the role of Ricky's girlfriend in three episodes of Ozzie and Harriet.[63][64] Nelson's celebrity and recognizability made it difficult for the couple to comfortably appear in public and the two spent their time in darkened drive-in movie theaters, out-of-the-way burger joints, and scenic overlooks where Nelson played his guitar for Gaba. They went steady and Nelson gave Gaba a ring to commemorate the event.[65] Gaba was with him in October 1957 when he met Elvis Presley at a private party in Presley's Beverly Wilshire Hotel luxury suite following the superstar's concert at the Hollywood Pan-Pacific Auditorium.[66]. Nelson and Gaba were too young to entertain a serious relationship and did not occur, though, according to Gaba, "we used to neck for hours."[67][68]

In 1958, Nelson fell in love with fifteen-year-old Oklahoman Lorrie Collins, a country singer appearing on a weekly telecast out of Compton, California, called Town Hall Party.[69][70] The two wrote the song "My Gal" together (Nelson's first composition), and she introduced him to Johnny Cash and Tex Ritter. Collins appeared in an Ozzie and Harriet episode as Ricky's girlfriend and sang "Just Because" with him in the musical finale.[71] They went steady and discussed marriage, but their parents discouraged the idea.[71][72] Their year-long relationship ended when sixteen-year-old Collins secretly married Johnny Cash's manager, Stu Carnell, nineteen years her senior, in Las Vegas.[72][73] Nelson learned of the marriage through a newspaper gossip column.[73]

Nelson sometimes dated actresses hired for the television show. After selecting young women that piqued his interest from the Player's Directory, a pictorial guide to actors and actresses searching for work, he would urge his father to hire them for the show. Nelson often entered fleeting relationships with these women,[74] but entertained relationships only if he cared about his partner.[75]

Marriage and divorce: Kris Harmon

At Christmas 1961, Nelson began dating Sharon Kristin "Kris" Harmon (born June 25, 1945), the daughter of football legend Tom Harmon and actress Elyse Knox (née Elsie Kornbrath), and the older sister of Kelly and Mark.[76][77] The Nelsons and the Harmons had long been friends and a union between their children held great appeal.[78] Rick and Kris were in love and had much in common: quiet dispositions, Hollywood upbringings, and high-powered, domineering fathers.[79]

During the winter holiday season of 1962-63, they announced their engagement,[80][81] and were married on April 20, 1963, in St. Martin of Tours Church in Hollywood before 400 guests in a 30-minute Catholic ceremony.[81][82] Kris was pregnant,[81] and Rick later described the union as a "shotgun wedding".[82] Nelson, a non-practicing Protestant, received instruction in Catholicism at the insistence of the bride's parents,[82][83] and signed a pledge to have any children of the union baptized in the Catholic faith.[81] The newlyweds honeymooned in the Bahamas.[81] Kris Nelson joined the television show as a regular cast member in the 1963 episode, "Rick's Wedding Ring".[84][85]

In 1975, the Nelsons were on the verge of breaking up but Kris would have had no parental support – the Harmons strongly disapproved of divorce. Rick and Kris each had affairs outside the marriage.[86] Rick engaged in one night stands on the road and Kris's closer-to-home liaisons included athletes and musicians.[87][88] In 1976, Kris and seventeen-year-old Ronald Reagan, Jr. were discovered making love in his parents' bed by Secret Service agents.[87] When Rick returned from a tour in 1977, he discovered Kris had moved him out of their home and into a rented house.[89] In less than a month, she found him there cavorting with two Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders. Rick later said she set him up to use the incident against him in court.[90]

In October 1977, Kris filed for divorce and asked for alimony, custody of their four children, and a portion of community property. The couple temporarily resolved their differences but Kris retained her attorney to pursue a permanent break.[89] Kris was contentious and jealous. Both spent enormous sums of money: Kris on parties, Rick on renting a private Lear jet.[91]

In April 1980, the Nelsons bought Errol Flynn's 1941 Mulholland Drive estate for $750,000.[92][93][94] Kris wanted Rick to give up music, spend more time at home, and focus on acting, but the family enjoyed a recklessly expensive lifestyle, and Kris's extravagant spending left Rick no choice but to tour relentlessly.[95] The impasse over Rick's career created unpleasantness at home. Rick toured as often as possible. Kris descended into drink and left the children in the care of household help.[96]

In October 1980, Kris moved into an upstairs room at Mulholland Drive house, and again filed for divorce.[97][98] She was hell-bent on taking everything she possibly could and leaving Rick ruined.[98][99] Attempts to negotiate a preliminary settlement agreement were unsuccessful.[98] In January 1981, Kris's attorney noted that Rick's assets were insufficient to warrant lengthy proceedings, and recommended a quick settlement. Kris replaced him with a more aggressive attorney. In February 1981, Kris was temporarily granted custody of the children and $3,600 in spousal support. Rick was required to pay a number of family expenses such as property taxes, doctor bills, and school tuitions.[100] Kris and her lawyers believed Rick had a hidden cache of wealth but such a thing was nonexistent.[101] Rick was almost broke. He refused to file for bankruptcy because it would negatively impact his career.[102] Accusations of drug and alcohol use and poor parenting flew back and forth between the Nelsons, and, after two years of acrimony, they were divorced in December 1982. The divorce was financially devastating for Nelson with attorneys and accountants taking over $1 million.[103]. Years of legal wrangling would follow.

Last years: Helen Blair

In 1980, Nelson met Helen Blair, a part-time model and exotic animal trainer, at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas.[104] She was a sweet, pretty woman sixteen years his junior originally from South Orange, New Jersey who followed his show around its various Southern California concert stops.[102][105] Within months of their meeting, she became his road companion, and, in 1982, his live-in lover. She was the only woman he dated after his divorce.[102][104]

Blair tried to make herself useful in Nelson's life by organizing his day and acting as a liaison for his fan club,[104] but Nelson's mother, brother, business manager, and manager disapproved of her presence in his life.[106] she stole, she shoplifted.[107] Rick asked family and friends to be patient and understanding with Blair because she had had a difficult childhood.[108] In 1984, when Nelson gave Blair a diamond engagement ring,[109] Harriet Nelson threatened to cut him out of her will.[60] Nevertheless, he made plans for a wedding at the Hilton Hawaiian Village,[108] but had second thoughts, backed out, and never mentioned marriage again.[110]

Blair died with Nelson and members of his band in an airplane crash in De Kalb, Texas on December 31, 1985. Her name was never mentioned at Nelson's funeral.[111] Blair's parents wanted their daughter buried next to Nelson at Forest Lawn Cemetery but Harriet Nelson dismissed the idea.[60] The Blairs refused to bury Helen's remains and filed a $2 million wrongful death suit against Nelson's estate.[111] They received a small settlement. Nelson did not provide for Blair in his will.[112]


Rick and Kris Nelson had one daughter, blue-eyed, blonde-haired Tracy Kristine Nelson born six months after the wedding on October 25, 1963, at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California.[113][114] She weighed four pounds, one ounce and was slightly premature.[114] As a preschooler, she appeared in Yours, Mine, and Ours with Lucille Ball.[115][116] In her teens, she attended the exclusive Westlake School for Girls and did well academically. She considered careers in ballet, veterinary medicine, and writing. During her parents' marital difficulties, she did not get along with her mother and stayed with her father in the Flynn house despite the temporary divorce agreement.[117][118] She briefly attended college and left school in 1982 when she received the role of Jennifer DeNuccio in the television sitcom, Square Pegs.[88][115] She had a small role in the film, Footloose,[88] appeared in Down and Out in Beverly Hills and had a regular role in television's Father Dowling Mysteries.[119] In 1982, she told People her parents were too young when they started a family. She recalled dressing up like a mermaid for an entire week as a child in an attempt to attract their attention.[120] Tracy married actor Billy Moses on July 25, 1987.[121] Her father left his estate to his four children.[112]

Nelson's twin sons Gunnar Eric Nelson and Matthew Gray Nelson were born on September 20, 1967.[122][123] Gunnar and Matthew performed as the band Nelson.[124]

Nelson's fourth child, Sam Hilliard Nelson was born August 29, 1974.[125][126] At six years, he was placed in the care of his maternal grandparents, Tom and Elyse Harmon of Brentwood, because of his mother's alcohol abuse, unpredictable behavior, and sporadic suicidal tendencies.[117][118] Sam came to call his grandfather, "Pop".[127] In 1987, Kris Nelson was undergoing drug rehab when her brother Mark Harmon tried to gain custody of Sam based on grounds Kris was incapable of good parenting. Sam's psychiatrist testified the thirteen-year-old boy depicted his mother as a dragon, and complained about her mood swings and how she prevented him from being with his siblings. Harmon dropped his custody bid when Kris's lawyer insinuated witnesses could be produced who had snorted cocaine with Harmon's wife, Pam Dawber.[128][129] At his father's funeral, Sam read a Native American poem.[130] Sam founded and performed with the group H Is Orange in the early 2000s.[131]


Nelson signed with Epic Records in 1976, producing one album, "Intakes" (1977) and the charting single "Dream Lover" 1979), but the union was unsuccessful. His brief stay with Capitol, 1980-83, was similarly unhappy, with one album release "Playing to Win" (1981), and the single "Give 'Em My Number" (1982). Despite this, he maintained a busy touring schedule, keeping him on the road roughly 200 dates a year. Nelson and his band were a top attraction at state fairs and showcase clubs, even without hit records. His final album release, "All My Best", consisted of re-recordings of his hits, along with one new song featured in his concerts, "You Know What I Mean". In 1985, Nelson joined a nostalgia rock tour of England. After returning home, he began a tour of the South. Nelson and his band boarded a plane after a show at a small club in Guntersville, Alabama headed to the KLUV-FM New Year's Eve Sock-Hop concert in Dallas, Texas. The plane crashed northeast of Dallas in De Kalb, Texas killing Nelson; his fiancée, Helen Blair; bassist Patrick Woodward, drummer Rick Intveld, keyboardist Andy Chapin and two others. Nelson was buried in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

The NTSB investigation stated that the crash was probably due to mechanical problems. The pilots attempted to land in a field after smoke filled the cabin. An examination indicated that a fire had originated in the righthand side of the aft cabin area at or near the floor line. The passengers were killed when the aircraft struck obstacles during the forced landing; the pilots were able to escape through the cockpit windows and survived. The ignition and fuel sources of the fire could not be determined, although many believe that the most likely cause was a defective cabin heater. The pilot indicated that the crew tried to turn on the gasoline cabin heater repeatedly shortly before the fire occurred, but that it failed to respond. After the fire, the access panel to the heater compartment was found unlatched. The theory is supported by records that showed that DC-3s in general, and this aircraft in particular, had had a previous history of problems with the cabin heaters.


Nelson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and also to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1515 Vine Street.

In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Ricky Nelson's passing, PBS aired a one-hour documentary entitled Ricky Nelson Sings featuring interviews with his children, as well as James Burton and Kris Kristofferson. The only time Kristofferson played with Nelson was in Elroy, Wisconsin at a "Party in the Park" show on July 3, 1985. That performance has since been released on DVD.

The American rock n roll band The Cramps dedicated their 1986 album A Date With Elvis to the memory of Ricky Nelson, as written on the album's back cover before the credits.

The song "Ricky" (originally titled "Ricky Nelson"), track 4 on John Frusciante's 2004 album Shadows Collide with People, is a tribute to Nelson, and is sung in a similar style.

One of the more poignant tributes was the family authorized recording of "Gentle Friend", written and recorded by boyhood friend Bill Aken (aka Zane Ashton) which reminisced about their early days together at The General Service Studios in Hollywood. The record was only made available to the Rick Nelson Fan Club and not to the general public. There are very few copys still circulating as most have remained in individual collections by the fan club members.

Bob Dylan, in his 2004 memoir, "Chronicles, Vol. 1", wrote about Nelson's influence on his music. Also in 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Nelson number 91 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.[132]

On December 27, 2005, EMI Music released an album titled Ricky Nelson's Greatest Hits, with 25 songs. It peaked at number 56 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

In Stephen King's short-story collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes, Nelson appears in "You Know They Got a Hell of a Band" as an evil version of himself, who torments an unsuspecting couple trapped in a town inhabited by late rock 'n' roll legends. Nelson was portrayed by William McNamara in the 2006 television mini-series adaptation, Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King.

Nelson's estate is run as The Rick Nelson Company, LLC, and owns ancillary rights to the classic Ozzie and Harriet television series. As of 2007, after years of public-domain video releases on VHS and DVD, an official edition of the show has been released through Shout! Factory.


See also


  1. ^ Whitburn
  2. ^ Bashe 284
  3. ^ Bashe 2,16-7
  4. ^ Selvin 25
  5. ^ Nelson was called "Ricky" from birth (Bashe 16).
  6. ^ a b Bashe 17
  7. ^ Selvin 26
  8. ^ Bashe 18
  9. ^ a b Bashe 19
  10. ^ Selvin 28
  11. ^ Bashe 19-20
  12. ^ a b Bashe 20
  13. ^ Selvin 29
  14. ^ Bashe 21
  15. ^ Selvin 30
  16. ^ Bashe 22
  17. ^ Bashe 24-5
  18. ^ Dennis 15
  19. ^ Bashe 23
  20. ^ Selvin 47
  21. ^ a b c Selvin 53
  22. ^ a b c Bashe 52
  23. ^ Selvin states Nelson never graduated Hollywood High (Selvin 85).
  24. ^ a b Selvin 55
  25. ^ a b Bashe 55
  26. ^ a b c d Selvin 54
  27. ^ a b c Bashe 56
  28. ^ Selvin 15
  29. ^ Bashe 53
  30. ^ Bashe 54
  31. ^ a b Bashe 66
  32. ^ a b Selvin 62
  33. ^ a b Holdship 2
  34. ^ Selvin 60
  35. ^ a b c Bronson 154
  36. ^ a b Holdship 1
  37. ^ Bashe 69
  38. ^ a b Selvin 64
  39. ^ Bashe 71
  40. ^ Bashe 72
  41. ^ Selvin 66
  42. ^ Bashe 75
  43. ^ a b Selvin 68
  44. ^ Selvin 70
  45. ^ Bashe 78-9
  46. ^ Selvin 73-4
  47. ^ Selvin 76
  48. ^ Bashe 80
  49. ^ Bashe 81
  50. ^ Bashe 82-3
  51. ^ Bashe 83
  52. ^ a b c d Bashe 90
  53. ^ Selvin 89
  54. ^ Selvin 89-90
  55. ^ a b c Bashe 91
  56. ^ Selvin 90
  57. ^ Bashe 92-3
  58. ^ Kelly 145
  59. ^ Selvin 114
  60. ^ a b c Bashe 244
  61. ^ Bashe 59
  62. ^ Selvin 50-1
  63. ^ a b Bashe 136
  64. ^ Selvin 72
  65. ^ Bashe 136-7
  66. ^ Bashe 117
  67. ^ Bashe 137
  68. ^ Selvin 73
  69. ^ Bashe 106
  70. ^ Selvin 81
  71. ^ a b Selvin 83
  72. ^ a b Bashe 138
  73. ^ a b Selvin 84
  74. ^ Selvin 135
  75. ^ Selvin 141
  76. ^ Bashe 138,140-1
  77. ^ Selvin 140
  78. ^ Bashe 139
  79. ^ Bashe 140
  80. ^ Bashe 142
  81. ^ a b c d e Selvin 149
  82. ^ a b c Bashe 144
  83. ^ Selvin 137,149
  84. ^ Bashe 145
  85. ^ Selvin 150
  86. ^ Selvin 184-5
  87. ^ a b Bashe 206
  88. ^ a b c Selvin 237
  89. ^ a b Selvin 230
  90. ^ Bashe 207
  91. ^ Selvin 236, 238
  92. ^ Bashe 214-5
  93. ^ Selvin 246
  94. ^ It would remain Rick's home until his death in 1985 (Selvin 246).
  95. ^ Selvin 251
  96. ^ Bashe 218
  97. ^ Bashe 219
  98. ^ a b c Selvin 252
  99. ^ Bashe 220
  100. ^ Selvin 254
  101. ^ Selvin 259
  102. ^ a b c Selvin 260
  103. ^ Bashe 221
  104. ^ a b c Bashe 242
  105. ^ Bashe 241-2
  106. ^ Bashe 242,244
  107. ^ Bashe 244-5
  108. ^ a b Bashe 245
  109. ^ Bashe 243
  110. ^ Bashe 246
  111. ^ a b Bashe 273
  112. ^ a b Bashe 271
  113. ^ Bashe 144,225
  114. ^ a b Selvin 151
  115. ^ a b Bashe 250
  116. ^ Selvin 171
  117. ^ a b Bashe 224
  118. ^ a b Selvin 255
  119. ^ Selvin 299
  120. ^ Bashe 225
  121. ^ Selvin 297
  122. ^ Bashe 158
  123. ^ Selvin 173
  124. ^ Selvin 267
  125. ^ Bashe 187
  126. ^ Selvin 217
  127. ^ Bashe 249
  128. ^ Bashe 282
  129. ^ Selvin 296-9
  130. ^ Bashe 272
  131. ^ Band Profile
  132. ^ "The Immortals: The First Fifty". Rolling Stone (946). April 15, 2004. ISSN 0035-791X. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/5939214/the_immortals_the_first_fifty. Retrieved 2007-12-24. 


  • "Band Profile: H Is Orange". http://www.garageband.com/artist/h_is_orange. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  • Bashe, Philip (1992). Teenage Idol, Travelin' Man: The Complete Biography of Rick Nelson. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 1-56282-969-6. 
  • Brackett, Nathan (Ed.); Hoard, Christian (Deputy Ed.) (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  • Bronson, Fred (2003). Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications. ISBN 0-8230-7738-1. 
  • Dennis, Jeffrey P. (2006). Queering Teen Culture: All-American Boys and Same-Sex Desire in Film and Television. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press, Inc.. ISBN 1-56023-349-4. 
  • Holdship, Bill (2005). Ricky Nelson Greatest Hits. Hollywood, CA: Capitol Records. 
  • Pohlen, Jerome (2006). Oddball Texas: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 1-556-52583-4. 
  • Selvin, Joel (1990). Ricky Nelson: Idol for a Generation. Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc.. ISBN 0-8092-4187-0. 

External links


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