High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

From Ricky to Rick - Respected to Rejected, Reinvented and Resurrected!

 America watched young 

  Ricky Nelson  

 grow up on his family's 

 long running television series 

 The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. 

At age 21, Ricky changed his name to Rick,
an indication that he was maturing and out-
growing the teen pop that made him famous.

Did the name change have anything to do
with the fact that Rick never again achieved a
#1 hit record? I'd like to know what you think.

The fact remains that Rick Nelson was
not as popular as Ricky Nelson had been.
Before long his records were falling short
of the top 10, the top 20 and even the 
top 40. In 1967 Rick finally appeared
on The Ed Sullivan Show but by then
Ozzie and Harriet had been canceled
and Rick's career had nearly flatlined
in the wake of the British Invasion.

Although hits were hard to come by in the
mid to late 60s, Rick Nelson continued to record
great songs. Please watch and enjoy a few more
of Rick's best television performances beginning
with this pre-Beatles single which reached #6.

 "It's Up to You" - Rick Nelson 
 (January 1963, highest chart position #6) 

In 1963 Rick Nelson left his label, Imperial Records,
signed with Decca, and released his first album for
that company entitled For Your Sweet Love.

Rick's voice was like buttah when he sang
"I Will Follow You," a velvety cover/answer to
the Little Peggy March hit "I Will Follow Him."

 "I Will Follow You" - Rick Nelson 
 (from the May 1963 album For Your Sweet Love

During Rick's early career on Imperial he had scored
many two sided hit singles, but very few of the 45s he
released on Decca became doublesiders. Indeed, Rick
had problems getting a hit on one side of the record.

"Gypsy Woman," not to be confused with the hit by
the Impressions, struggled up the chart for 9 weeks
and never reached the halfway point! That's a crime
because this Rick Nelson record is way cool.

 "Gypsy Woman" - Rick Nelson 
 (June 1963, highest chart position #62) 

If that gypsy woman looked in her crystal ball
in the summer of 1963 she must have seen
the Beatles coming. By the time the
Fab Four had taken over the music
scene, Rick Nelson's records
were Nowheresville.

In 1965 another fine single of Rick's landed
on the chart but vanished in two weeks flat,
never rising above #96.  For Rick Nelson
the pop music landscape of the mid 60s
had become a "Mean Old World."

 "Mean Old World" - Rick Nelson 
 (March 1965, highest chart position #96) 

Next we fast forward more than four years and
behold a mature, reinvented Rick Nelson, firmly
established by this time as a pioneer of
country-rock. It was the end of the 60s.
Rick had a new look and a new band
and was on the comeback trail.

Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band appeared
on The Mike Douglas Show and performed their new
top 40 hit, a record that spent an astounding
18 weeks on the Billboard chart, a fine rendition
of the Bob Dylan composition "She Belongs To Me."

 "She Belongs To Me" - Rick Nelson 
 and the Stone Canyon Band 
 (December 1969, highest chart position #33) 

In October 1971, Rick Nelson took part in an oldies
revival concert at Madison Square Garden. Rick walked
on stage wearing bell-bottoms and a purple velvet shirt
with hair down to his shoulders. Surely Rick's new look
surprised fans who hadn't seen him in years, but all
went well as he sang a couple of his familiar hits.
When Rick began to perform "Country Honk," the
countrified version of the Rolling Stones hit
"Honky Tonk Women," the crowd started booing.
Some say the booing was merely coincidental and
resulted from a disturbance that erupted at the
back of the audience when police tried to remove
some drunks. Whatever the reason for the booing,
Rick took it personally. He walked off the stage
and refused to return for the finale.

One year later Rick and his band were cracking the
top 10 with "Garden Party," a major comeback hit
based on that unpleasant New York experience.

 "Garden Party" - Rick Nelson 
 and the Stone Canyon Band 
 (Oct. 1972, highest chart position 
 #6 Hot 100#3 Cash Box

My blood ran cold when I awoke New Year's Day
 1986 to the shocking news that Rick Nelson
had died in a plane crash the night before.

Rick's untimely death was one of the many tragedies
in rock history and left us wondering how many
great songs were left unwritten and unsung
by fate's cruel intervention.

 You can't please everyone, 

  Eric/Ricky/Rick Nelson,  

 but you pleased me 

 and millions of other fans 

 around the world. 

 We thank you! 

Have a Shady day!


  1. Hi again Shady! I knew and enjoyed most of Rick Nelson's hits. My most familiar Ricky hit was "Garden Party". I can remember listening to it on my car radio in the 70's. What a nice 2 part tribute for Ricky/Rick Nelson, another Rock Star that left us too soon.

    1. Hi, Toni! An interesting and rather alarming phenomenon in the new millennium is the number of people who never heard of recording artists like Rick Nelson who were major stars in their time and a big part of our coming of age experience. This series introduced me to a few of Rick's recordings I never heard before. Thank you very much, dear friend Toni, for coming back for part 2 as we followed Eric "From Ricky to Rick - Respected to Rejected, Reinvented and Resurrected!" He deserves to be remembered!

  2. I think Garden Party is the song of his that I know best, and that is also the one I like the best because I think it showcases his easy, mellow tones the best. I did not know about the booing incident. How hurtful that must have been to him.

    I, too, remember hearing the news that he had died in the plane crash, and although Ozzie and Harriet was before my time, I knew him from his singing. I still think the world is a little poorer place without him.

    Thank you, my friend, for your always carefully researched and interesting posts. Have a wonderful week!

    1. Thank you so very much, dear Shelly! Your kind words mean a lot to me. I am learning a great deal from doing research for these posts. Think of how Rick and many other American solo artists and vocal groups must have felt when the Beatles came along and rendered their music obsolete. As you pointed out, Rick also endured the humiliation of being booed by one time fans at Madison Square Garden. The problem there is that he had moved on to a different style of music and really didn't fit in with other oldies acts at that "garden party." Thank you again, dear Shelly, and have a wonderful day!

  3. I loved watching Ozzie and Harriet as a kid, and I've always liked Rick Nelson. I had a little crush on him, truth be told, but I loved his style, and I think that's why I like Chris Isaak so much - similar styles, especially Rick's older music. Big guitar sounds, clear voice. Thanks for this little trip back in time!

    1. Hi, karen! It's sweet of you to come by first thing in the morning local time. I really appreciate your visit! It's no secret that The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet utilized "canned laughter" as did all the other sitcoms back then; yet, the laughter was not jarring and "forced" like it was on other shows. If you recall, Ozzie usually laughed along with the laugh track which made the series seem very natural to me. Remember Ozzie's later series Ozzie's Girls in the early 70s? I know you've been away for a while so if you want to hear some of the best of younger Ricky Nelson, click back to my previous post and enjoy. Thank you again, dear friend karen. Your friendship and support mean a great deal to me!

  4. Hi dear Tom- well, I certainly had a crush on Ricky Nelson and I really enjoyed listening to all the music you provided for us today. This post was both interesting and informative as far as I was concerned. Lots of little tidbits that I was unaware of. Rick's decline in selling his records was quite sad really, but I was pleased to read that he reinvented himself and did have a comeback. His death was a shock and very sad. Thank you Tom, for bringing Ricky and his music back to us with these two posts. Smooches coming your way!

    1. SMOOCHES SMOOCHES SMOOCHES, dear Thisisme! Thank you very much for coming to part 2 of my Rick Nelson garden party. The song I like best in this post is "She Belongs To Me," the brilliant cover of the Bob Dylan song performed by Rick and the Stone Canyon Band. What's hard for me to believe is that the record spent 18 weeks on the chart and barely cracked the top 40. An 18 week chart run is usually reserved for a top 5 hit, frequently a chart topper. Few things are as exciting as an artist making a comeback. Elvis did it and Rick Nelson did it. Both died prematurely while still in their early to mid 40s. Thank you again for coming to see me, dear friend Thisisme. Sweet dreams to you tonight and I'll be seeing you again soon!

  5. Hey Shady! Ricky Nelson was special just like Elvis, looks, mannerisms and voice. I really didnt care for his 'Garden Party' song, but, make no mistake-you hear those two words in ANY context and, think of Ricky Nelson...I still like to call him Ricky, but Rick is cool too. And, I bought a new rose bush last fall called 'Garden Party'. They're white. Well, there is no mention of Rick on the tag, but he's the reason I bought the rose bush!

    I never heard his version of 'I will follow you', but I liked the video, the dancers, and he did a great job. 'It's Up to You' was major good and so was 'Gypsy Woman'. I don't think changing his name affected his popularity-I think your 2nd choice (the Beatles) is what really happened. And, I am so sorry for those that took that terrible plunge. Dion, Tommy James and Del Shannon are just a few greats who suffered through the British invasion!

    Well, I'll quit belly aching about it...I do adore the Stones,The Kinks, and most of the others from that invasion. They did bring us some great music, didn't they?

    This was the best tribute to Ricky Nelson I've read. I feel your facts and information were wellfounded, and heartfelt. We don't get to read much about him anymore, and he is still well-loved! I enjoyed seeing the good photos and the great videos of him. You could see a sadness in him during his later years.
    Thank you dear Shady, for reminding us that he was also HUMAN!

    See you soon! Have a great week!♫

    1. Hi, dear Suzanne! You touched on something there that I agree with totally. You can see a sadness in Rick in some of those later videos. Perhaps it was a mix of disappointment, bitterness and regret about both his professional and his personal life. I'm thrilled to know you enjoyed this series and felt it worth the investment of your time. That means a lot to me because I realize my posts usually require a significant time commitment. Thank you very much for swinging by, dear friend Suzanne, and I wish you a great week, too!

  6. I had no idea that he had died in a plane crash! Such a tragedy! I always wonder about artists who die before their time like two of my favourite Jeff Buckley and Elliott Smith. It's hard to think that people like that could have given so much more and din't have the opportunity. But he will live in in true fans like yourself Tom!

    Hope you're having a great week so far, you'll be happy to know I've been enjoying a relaxing week off work!

    Emma x

    1. Hi, dear Emma! I'm happy to learn that you're kicking back this week and getting some rest. It's true. Music history is filled with tragic stories of talented artists whose lives were cut short. Several notable cases involved a plane crashing on the way to a gig. Rick Nelson's death was an incalculable loss. Thank you very much for coming over for a look and a listen, dear friend Emma! Enjoy the rest of your days off work!

  7. I'm late in commenting! I actually thought I did comment because I read this early in the week. Oh, better late than never! I loved Garden Party. I wasn't into Rick Nelson at the Beatles stage, but I was so sad when he died. Thanks for bringing him back to us in your post. Have a great weekend!

    1. Hello, dear friend YaYa! Every time I run a series I worry that some readers will think they've been here and done that and miss one or more posts. I made the mistake of running a 9-part series a year ago using the same title for all 9 posts changing only the part number. It got confusing and a few of the posts never even showed up in the Google reader.

      Anyway, I am very happy to see you, my dear friend, and I thank you for checking back in. If you watched that video of Rick performing on O&H in mid 60s you noticed that they surrounded him with go-go dancers in a desperate attempt to keep pace with the times. IMO the dancers were a disgrace and a distraction and Rick probably didn't like the idea either.

      Thank you again for your visit and kind comments, dear YaYa. I wish you a safe, happy, warm and sunny weekend up there in Ohio!

  8. Thank you so much for your kind words on my blog. Yours is great too, I will definitely come back here and read the things that you post. Ricky Nelson is an amazing artist, I look forward to your next posts!

    1. Hi, Martine! I just found your comment and am delighted that you came over for a visit. Ricky Nelson was a big part of my childhood and I was crushed when he died so young. I have lots more 50s material coming up this year so please come back again. I appreciate your comment very much!


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