Ricky Nelson, Rock and Roller or Teen Idol? Most folks would tend to think of him as the later but solely on a musical level, I disagree with the majority. Yes he was a good lookin’ son of gun, which is why the “Teen Idol” title sticks so well to his image. Appearances on his parent’s weekly Television show, “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”, added to the perception.
Eric Hilliard Nelson was born May 8th, 1940 to musical parents. Ozzie was a bandleader, signed to the Brunswick and Bluebird labels, his band charted thirty-eight (38) hit singles on Billboard’s charts from 1930 to 1940. Harriet Hilliard was a vocalist in the band and that’s how they met.
“The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” was originally a radio show that started it’s broadcast in October, 1944. By 1949 young Ricky was playing himself on the show. Eight years later in October 1952 the show moved to the then, new format of Television.
Rick’s musical career started accidentally. He was on a date when he said “Elvis’ record came on the radio” though he never said which one. The girl he was with started screaming and he felt that he had to say something so he told her that he too, was going to make a record. According to Rick, she started to laugh. He was convinced that, even if it was to make only one record, he would make it and hand it to her.
With Ozzie’s help, a deal was struck with Verve records, a jazz label and Ricky recorded three songs. Ricky Idolized R & B and Rockabilly artists at the time so he picked the Fats Domino song “I’m Walkin” as his first song. It was an after thought to do it on the T.V. show but a week after he performed the song, a million copies of the record were sold. Imperial Records, Fats Domino’s label, then bought Rick’s contract from Verve and Ricky went on to have Fifty-Four (54) singles Chart on Billboard, Eight-teen (18) went to the Top-10, many selling a million copies.
Rick has stated many times that his main influence was Carl Perkins. Even Rick’s last Top-10 single, “Garden Party”, in his own words, had a “Carl Perkins Ending” played on the guitar. It is his love for Rockabilly artists like Carl Perkins and R&B Performers like Fats Domino that separate Rick from the “Teen Idols” who were trying to sound like Frank Sinatra. Let’s not forget Rick Nelson is in the ROCK ‘n ROLL Hall Of Fame, I don’t think there is one for “Teen Idols” ’nuff said