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

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spotlight on Eric Hilliard Nelson

 Welcome to the first of two 

 posts devoted exclusively to 

  Ricky Nelson,  

 a talented and versatile 

 singer, songwriter, musician 

 and actor - a teenage idol 

 with plenty of street cred. 

Ricky Nelson grew up in front of the cameras during
the 14 seasons of his family's hit television series,
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. At age 16,
Ricky declared that if Elvis Presley could become a
rock 'n' roll star, so could he. Father Ozzie helped
Ricky get started making records and before long
the young singer/guitar player was a teenage idol
with a huge international fan club of his own.

It should come as no surprise that Ricky's singing soon
became a regular feature on Ozzie and Harriet. Every
second or third episode ended with Ricky and his band
performing in front of a group of excited teenagers.
Ricky Nelson thereby became the first teen idol to
use television to promote his records.

I hope you enjoy these rare and wonderful
clips of Ricky singing on Ozzie and Harriet.

The mark of a great artist is when you buy his or her 45
and get a twofer, two great songs for the price of one.
Few pop singers waxed more great doublesiders than
Ricky Nelson. Some of his B sides surpassed the A sides
in popularity, one example being the top 10 rockabilly hit
"Believe What You Say," the fab flip side of "My Bucket's
Got a Hole In It" which finished its chart ascent at #18.

 "Believe What You Say" - Ricky Nelson  
 (May 1958, highest chart position #8, 
 B side of "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It") 

Many of Ricky Nelson's smooth ballad sides
became hits, but Ricky confessed that he
preferred to sing up tempo material.

Note the happy expression on Ricky's face
as he performs the rousing rockabilly number
"I Got a Feeling," a top 10 hit eclipsed
on the chart by the B ballad,
"Lonesome Town."

 "I Got a Feeling" - Ricky Nelson 
 (December 1958, highest chart position #10, 
 A side of "Lonesome Town" which peaked at #7) 

A good natured, easy going character on the
family's sitcom, Ozzie Nelson had a reputation
as a domineering, controlling patriarch.
Ozzie did not allow Ricky to appear on
TV shows that could have helped him to
become an even bigger star, such as
American Bandstand and Ed Sullivan.

Ozzie's decision to keep Ricky from performing
on other TV shows was shrewd because it
helped boost ratings for Ozzie and Harriet. 
The Nelsons' series remained the only place
where fans could see Ricky singing his latest
hits like the tender ballad "Young Emotions."

 "Young Emotions" - Ricky Nelson 
 (June 1960, highest chart position #12) 

Ricky Nelson turned 21 in May of 1961 just as his
all time biggest hit was starting to climb the chart.

The up tempo B side, "Hello Mary Lou," reached #9 while  
the mid tempo "Travelin' Man" went all the way to #1.

 "Travelin' Man" - Ricky Nelson 
 (June 1961, highest chart position #1) 

Beginning with his next single release, "A Wonder Like You"
b/w/ "Everlovin'," Ricky shortened his name to Rick.

The move reflected Rick's growing desire to shed his teen
idol image and adopt a more mature approach to music.

Fans continued to call him Ricky. Record labels and
picture sleeves in the UK continued to be printed using
using his original stage name and Rick Nelson continued
to record pop songs that resonated with adolescents
like the #5 charting teen pop ballad "Young World."

 "Young World" - Rick Nelson 
 (April 1962, highest chart position #5) 

The melancholy "Teen Age Idol" could have been a
status report on the life and times of Rick Nelson.

The song reminded us that even the rich and famous
can spend much of their lives in Lonesome Town.

 "Teen Age Idol" - Rick Nelson 
 (September 1962, highest chart position #5) 

Trouble loomed on the horizon for Rick Nelson.
"Teen Age Idol" was to be the last single of his
career to reach the top 5 on the Billboard chart.

Rick was a teen age idol and it was, as he sang,
a young world, but the Liverpoolian Moptops were
waiting in the wings, preparing to derail the careers
of many American idols. It wouldn't be long before
Rick Nelson would be perceived as old school.

In my next post we'll continue to follow Rick Nelson's
singing career through Beatlemania and beyond as he
produced great music but reaped poor record sales.

 Please join me for part 2 

 of my tribute to 

 Eric/Ricky/Rick Nelson! 

Have a Shady day!


  1. A most enjoyable and informative post, my friend! The Nelsons were truly a remarkable family, and Rick a genuinely talented guy.

    I'm glad you've picked his life to delve into, as it's always seemed to be tragically untapped, despite his successes.

    Looking forward to the next part, my friend. Have a terrific week!

    1. Hi, Shelly! I agree with you that many people, especially younger ones, do not realize how many great recordings were made by Rick Nelson during his abbreviated career. "Travelin' Man" and "Garden Party" are just the tip of a very large iceberg which included some fine rockabilly performances. Thank you for coming by, dear friend Shelly, and I'll see you back here for part 2 next Tuesday!

  2. Rick was indeed one of my favorites and it saddens me to read how his career was held back by restricted access to big name shows. I never realized and only enjoyed his singing. Even today on one of the oldies stations I listen to hearing one of his tunes come on makes me happy as i sing along with him. Some like the first one, I didn't remember but I was only 11 at the time. I enjoyed all of these selections because I just enjoy his style so much and can't wait for the next part of his story. Thanks my friend.

    1. Hey, Odie! I could listen to Rick's singing all day every day. He didn't rely on gimmicks. He had a smooth, laid back, straightforward singing style that was pleasing and satisfying. Thanks so much for coming to the garden party, good buddy. I hope to see you again next week when I present more of Rick's best!

  3. Hi, Shady!

    Ricky Nelson sure was cute back in the day. He was about 10 years behind my teen idol days (my Donny Osmond/David Cassidy days). What a talented actor/singer from a wonderful loving family. I knew and enjoyed most of his hits like, "Hello Mary Lou" and "Travelin Man." They will always be classic staples. What a nice tribute for "Eric Hilliard" another Rock Star with a tragic ending.

    1. Hi, Toni! I shudder to think of all the talented rock 'n' roll singers and musicians who died young. Rick Nelson's popularity faded during the British Invasion but he adapted and staged a comeback. He had much more to contribute when his life was cut short. I'm happy to know you enjoy Rick's songs. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was one of the best and, in its own way, one of the hippest family sitcoms of the 50s and 60s. Thank you very much for visiting, dear friend Toni, and c'mon back next week for part 2!

  4. Hi dear Tom. Well, this was a real treat for me today, as I loved Ricky Nelson back in the 60's - Hallo Mary Lou being one of my great favourites. Like Odie, I hadn't realized that his career had been restricted like that. Shame really. He really was so gorgeous looking - a typical all American boy. Can't wait for Part 2 my friend. Sending smooches your way. It's good to see our friend Odie back in the fold again, isn't it?

    1. Smooches smooches smooches, dear Thisisme! Yessum, it's nice to have Odie back in action and I'm happy to know that you like today's featured artist as much as he does. I admire performers like Rick Nelson who simply stepped up to the mic and sang his song w/o much fuss and fanfare. I never get tired of listening to Rick's music and there are some great tunes coming up in part 2. Thank you so much for coming over, dear friend Thisisme. I hope you have a restful night there in Southhams!

  5. When I read Rick saying if Elvis could be a singing star then he could too, I thought about my older sister Chloe whose favorite two singers were Elvis and Ricky Nelson. They do look alike, especially the lips and hair.

    Rick is one of my all time favorites too. He had a smooth style and Travelin Man is my fav of his songs. He was just great. Chloe and I saw him sing once in San Bernardino. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

    1. Hi, Belle! It must have been exciting for you and Chloe to see Rick in concert. Rick sang "some people call me a teen age idol" but it's important for us all to remember that he had a lot more street cred than most of the other teen idols of the period. Rick had genuine talent to go along with his clean cut, all American good looks and he earned the respect of veteran singers and musicians. Thank you very much for being here today, dear friend Belle, and I hope you find part two just as entertaining. See you next Tuesday!

  6. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 24, 2013 at 7:01 PM

    I remember watching Ozzie and Harriet on our new Sylvania t.v. with the "halo" around the screen. (I believe it was to protect our eyes.) We didn't own a t.v. until I was 9 or 10, so it was a magical thing to me and my family. We also watched the Lone Ranger, The Life of Riley, Groucho Marx, Your Hit Parade, and The Ed Sullivan Show.

    I probably would have had a crush on Ricky Nelson if my piano teacher hadn't been preparing me for a career in classical music and totally dismissing popular music of the time. Crushes were okay as long as they were on Van Cliburn. I sang along to his songs and other 'forbidden' music on the car radio on the way to my weekly piano lesson!

    I enjoyed Ricky's mellow voice and great melodies all over again today. Since I'm no longer under my piano teacher's thumb, I can now enjoy whatever music I like. However something about Rick's eyes look haunting and a bit preoccupied to me, sort of like there was something going on behind the scenes. Apparently it was. I wonder how different his life would have been with another manager. So many people in entertainment show one thing to their fans but are quite different behind closed doors. Such was the case with Ozzie and so many others.

    My teacher was a little bit like Ozzie I guess, but she thought rock & roll, country and folk music would "hurt" my future so she steered me away from it. It seems like I missed a part of my youth, so I have a lot of catching up to do! SDM&M is helping with that!

    1. Hello, dear Kathleen! If you secretly listened to forbidden music behind your piano teacher's back then you were definitely Dellette material. It's a shame you never took "forbidden" to the next level and made the Shady Dell your home away from home as did MILLIONS of other kids!

      My family was the first on our block to buy a color television. It was hilarious because most programs back then were still broadcast in back and white. Those B&W shows had a slight green or blue tint to them on our set and when visitors came to our house they often thought the blue or green hue was "color TV."

      Of the programs on your list I watched The Lone Ranger, Riley, Groucho and Ed Sullivan. Let's not forget The Mickey Mouse Club. The late Annette Funicello was the very first girl I had a crush on (on which I had a crush?)... I DUG her, okay! :) Did you ever watch Ozzie Nelson's 1973 series Ozzie's Girls? I watched that one every week, too, all 24 episodes before it was canceled.

      Thank you very much for your terrific comment, dear friend Kathleen. Please remember to sneak back here (secretly) for the forbidden part 2 next Tuesday!

  7. Hi Shady, I made my way cross-country tonite. I truly love Rick Nelson, meaning I STILL do! I'm so glad you wrote about him! In grade school, we girls would have voting contests to decide who was the best looking: Elvis, Rick Nelson, or Fabian. I always voted for Rick because I felt he was a bit outnumbered by Elvis fans. They looked a lot alike tho, in my opinion.

    And, true-I believe Ozzie held him back from what he might have become...but, what did I know back then. I really liked most of his music, 'Lonesome Town' and 'Travelin Man' are two favorites.

    You put this episode together really well, and, will have us coming back for the next one. This is a story that is well worth telling and reading about. There was so much to this great guy.

    Hope you don't mind me sneaking in after two weeks of being a no show-I did catch your post on Margaret's birthday. It's been a grueling time with no internet...I feel like I've missed so much. Have a wonderful week Shady! See you soon.♫

    1. Hi, Suzanne! You've been missed, my dear friend, but at least you are in good health. I was growing concerned that you and/or Karo were under the weather again. I can imagine how frustrating it was for you to lose power and the internet and remain cut-off from your blog friends for such a long time. Welcome welcome welcome back!

      I remember girls at my school debating which teen idol was cutest. Guys like Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Bobby Rydell and Edd "Kookie" Byrnes were all in the running back then but Elvis and Rick were serious recording artists and in a league of their own. Before long Elvis and Rick were taking a back seat to John, Paul, George and Ringo and the girls were debating which English band was #1 - the Beatles or the Dave Clark Five.

      Thank you very much for stopping in, dear friend Suzanne. You are loved throughout the blog world and it's so nice to have you back. See you next time!

  8. I've always enjoyed Ricky Nelson. I must have seen most of Ozzie and Harriet in reruns since I was only about 5 when they started out...but I remember the shows and I would still love to watch them today! Ozzie knew where the bread was buttered and it's sort of sad that he had to use his kids to make his show's ratings...but look at the people today who use their families for money...for some reason another "Ozzie" comes to mind..Ozzy Osborn! His family was raised just a bit different in front of the cameras than Ozzie and Harriet! Ha! I'm looking forward to part 2 because I think I will have more memories of his comeback and music in the 60's. I was very sad the day he passed away.

    1. A sittin' here la la waitin' for my YaYa, ah-um, ah-um
      A sittin' here la la, waitin' for my YaYa, ah-um, ah-um
      It may sound funny but I don't believe she's comin', ah-um, ah-um

      Hi, YaYa! I'll bet people sing that song to you all the time but I couldn't resist!

      I agree that we shouldn't judge Ozzie too harshly. If you think about it he was shrewd and savvy. Ricky became a major star w/o the help of Bandstand or Ed Sullivan and since Ricky was exclusive to Ozzie & Harriet the family series wound up being one of the longest running TV series ever. Show business is just that - a business and you can't really blame people like Ozzie or Ozzy for exploiting the family's strengths in order to succeed. (Let's not forget Gene Simmons Family Jewels.)

      Thank you very much for your visit and kind comments, dear friend Yaya. Please be here next Tuesday for part 2 as Rick sings us through the 60s. Until then, please take care!

  9. I love this post, Tom! I need to catch up on some of your other posts as well... hence I've neglected blogger for a while, haha! P.s. I was jamming out to, "I've got a feelin" and I am glad that I discovered "Young World"... Ricky Nelson sure was somethin' in his day. Have a greeeat Thursday, dear friend!

    1. My goodness, hello, Presley! I've been wondering how you're doing lately and I'm delighted that you came over for a visit. I should have known that Ricky Nelson's music would have you singing along. I never get tired of hearing his voice (or yours). What I like about Ricky/Rick was the fact that he was not flashy and flamboyant, just a serious craftsman trying to produce quality work.

      If you observe Ricky's acting on Ozzie & Harriet (brother David's acting, too) they might be considered "wooden" by some critics who are used to the wild and zany characters we see on most modern TV sitcoms. To me, "wooden," for lack of a better word, is good, because it's natural. Rick, Dave and for that matter Ozzie and Harriet were all very natural in their roles on the show. They came across like real people and the real family they were. Tony Dow as Wally Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver is another example of that natural acting style you don't see much today.

      Thank you again for making my day with your visit and sweet comments, dear friend Presley. Don't forget part 2 next Tuesday!

  10. I've heard of Ricky Nelson before but I'd never properly heard his music. He definitely had that blue eyed teen idol look!

    Hope you had a great weekend Tom!

    Emma x

    1. Hi, Emma! I'm glad you checked out Ricky Nelson, a singer and guitarist who was blessed with good looks and an abundance of talent. Somehow Rick's music holds up nicely decades later while the recordings of some of his contemporaries seem stale and dated. Thank you very much for stopping by, dear friend Emma. I wish you a safe and happy week ahead and I hope you'll return on Tuesday for Part 2 of this series.


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