Rick "Ricky" Nelson
Ricky changed his named to "Rick" in the middle of his career.
But when Carl Perkins said to him in Memphis, "Ricky, there's only a couple of us originals left."
... out of respect to Carl, he went back to calling himself "Ricky" again.

International Ricky Nelson site -
We are the only officially recognised club serving Ricks fans and members across the world. My name is Andrew Wilkinson and I am the founder and President of the club which was formed at Rick's request when I met and talked with him backstage at the Liverpool Empire when he was over for concerts in 1972. Andrew -

  • Matthew & Gunnar Nelson, The Nelsons - The Nelson Brothers, Matthew & Gunnar Nelson of Pop/Rock fame, are bringing their own special brand of acoustic Rockabilly to your hometown. The twin sons of late teen-idol, Rick Nelson, went #1 on Billboard charts in 1990 with their hit (Can't Live Without) Your Love & Affection off their multi-platinum album "After The Rain". The Nelsons are touring to support their new album "Nelson V : LIFE", the most recent Pop/Rock release. MANY OTHER NELSON LINKS CAN BE FOUND HERE.

    Drawn by Terry R. Shaw (


    by Paul Freeman, LA Times Syndicate

    Posted Octover 24, 2000 - Sure he was the original teenage idol. But Rick Nelson's place in rock 'n' roll history is much more significant than that. By presenting sizzling numbers each week on his family's TV series, he helped the rebellious musical genre earn acceptance. Later in his career, Nelson pioneered the melding of country with rock.

    Few other rockers can match the impact he had. Nelson's records influenced subsequent stars from George Harrison to Chris Isaak, not to mention his multi-platininum-selling twin sons Gunnar and Matthew. "Pop was our hero," says Gunnar Nelson. "My earliest memory was of sitting on an apple crate off to the side of the stage and watching him play at Knott's Berry Farm. I remember him positively glowing -- smiling, laughing, making everybody in the audience happy. I knew then and there that I wanted to be just like him when I grew up."

    The release of "Rick Nelson - Legacy" (Capitol Records), a 100-track, four CD box set demonstrates an impressive body of work that spans nearly 30 years. In addition to 54 of his chart hits, this collection contains little known Nelson gems and previously unreleased tracks discovered by Gunnar and Matthew in their uncle David Nelson's garage.

    Gunnar Nelson says, "It was like a fairy tale. We found them in a jumble of dusty tape boxes in the pit of Hollywood, long forgotten. I felt like we'd found the Grail."

    Despite decades of musical magic and integrity, Nelson remains somewhat under-appreciated. That fact rankles John Fogerty. Shortly after Nelson's death in a New Year's Eve, 1985 plane crash, Fogerty gave the speech inducting the fallen hero into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "A lot of people thought of him as a Frankie Avalon or something. Those first records were not like that at all. He had a great rockabilly band and, as I said in my speech, he gave Sam Phillips [Sun Records chief who launched Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins] a run for his money. Rick's first four or five albums are just absolutely classic rock 'n' roll."

    Nelson had idolized the Sun artists, particularly Presley and Perkins. In 1956, when Elvis' backup singers, the Jordanaires, came to Hollywood to work on the movie "Loving You," the 15-year-old TV star headed for their hotel suite.

    Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires recalls, "I answered the doorbell and he said, 'Hi. I'm Rick Nelson.' I said, 'Yes, I know.' He said, 'You know who I am?!' I've often thought how cute it was. In the small world that he lived in, he didn't realize how big the Nelsons were all over the country.

    "He told us, 'When I get to recording, I want you guys to do some oohin' and aahin' behind me.'"

    Just a year later, Nelson recorded "I'm Walkin," performed it on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" and established himself as a million-selling artist. Far from the Avalon-Rydell-Fabian mold, he convincingly sang a string of scorching rockabilly numbers, such "Stood Up," "Waitin' In School" and "It's Late." He sounded just as natural delivering gentle ballads and breezy pop. The Jordanaires found themselves providing velvety backing vocals on Nelson's smashes, including "Lonesome Town" and "Poor Little Fool." "Rick became a very dear friend," Stoker says. "He was a very sweet, kind guy, very timid and shy, never pushy, always courteous, very appreciative, just a fantastic person to be around."

    As a youngster, Nelson's TV catch phrase was, "I don't mess around, boy." And, no dilettante, he took music very seriously. Gunnar Nelson says, "Pop was always the master of his own musical ship. His music was always exactly that: his music."

    Stoker says, "He was very much in charge of what he wanted musically, which was really a surprise to us. But he was always willing to listen to other people's ideas. He was great to work with, because he had such a super attitude."

    Though the young performer knew what he wanted musically, his dad Ozzie and producer Jimmie Haskell tossed in their own suggestions. Stoker says, "Ozzie, who was very knowledgeable about music, would put his stamp on what was being done. He was the producer and director of the TV show. He would come over and produce and direct Rick's recording sessions."

    Soon Nelson was rivaling Presley in popularity. Stoker says, "The general public loved the way he presented the songs on that TV show and in his personal appearances, too. He was an extremely good-looking kid and he had a mannerism that drove the girls wild."

    A terrific band, featuring guitarist James Burton, helped fuel Nelson's recordings. Modern rock 'n' roller Marshall Crenshaw says, "I really dig Ricky Nelson. His records totally rock. One album of his called 'Ricky Sings Again' really kicks ass.

    "People have tried to imply over the years that he was just sort of stood up in front of the band. Of course, he got a lot of help from James Burton and all those guys, but if the singer isn't happening, then the record's not going to be happening. Ricky deserves credit as being the one who made those records really happen."

    Nelson continued to churn out hits in the early '60s, including "Hello Mary Lou." The other side of that single, "Travelin' Man" also soared up the charts and its imaginative TV presentation was essentially the first rock video.

    By '64 however, the TV series was tiring; the heartthrob was married; and the British Invasion was knocking American artists off the radio. Though the spotlight began to fade, Nelson's musical gifts only shone brighter. He developed his songwriting skills and, with his Stone Canyon Band, forged a new path into country-rock.

    Flying Burrito Brother John Beland, once the Stone Canyon Band's lead guitarist, says, "Playing country-rock is a difficult road, commercially. You're caught in the middle. The people in pop music wanted him to still be the Ricky on TV and in country music, they would rather have had him wear a hat and sing mainstream country. But he just did what felt right to him."

    In addition to his own compositions, Nelson recorded songs penned by Tim Hardin, Eric Andersen, Randy Newman and Bob Dylan. Dylan acknowledged Nelson as one of his finest interpreters.

    Nelson had a minor hit with Dylan's "She Belongs To Me," but chart success generally eluded him. The year 1972 brought a stunning exception. "Garden Party," written in response to negative response at a nostalgia concert, became his first million-selling record in a decade. In the song, Nelson stated his fundamental musical philosophy: "You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself."

    Gunnar Nelson says, "The whole 'Garden Party' experience was a great statement on the kind of person Rick Nelson was. In his darkest hour, he went back to square one -- expressing his feelings through his music. 'Garden Party' makes Rick Nelson forever the undisputed comeback heavyweight champion of the world."

    Rick Nelson, who said, "A career is nothing more than a series of comebacks," never returned to the Top 10. He continued making exceptional music. But record company ineptitude repeatedly thwarted him.

    Beland says, "It was funny, because he was getting four encores a night, crowds going crazy and ripping his clothes off, but the record companies never got it. You'd look at the reaction and go, 'Why isn't he selling a ton of records?'"

    Nelson recorded Beland's haunting arrangement of Bobby Darin's "Dream Lover" and sang it while hosting "Saturday Night Live" in 1978. It caused an instant sensation. But the record company delayed its release for weeks to add a conga drum to the mix. Beland says, "The day after the TV show, that record should have been going through the roof. But again they really dropped the ball."

    "He just did what he loved," says Gunnar Nelson. "I don't think he ever attached his self-worth to his position on the charts. He left that to the one-hit wonders."

    In his last years, Nelson came full circle, returning to his rockabilly roots. Unlike many of contemporaries, he never lost any of his energy or enthusiasm for the music. That's evident by such recordings as "Believe What You Say," "Back To School Days" and Fogerty's "Almost Saturday Night."

    Gunnar Nelson recalls hearing a story about his father's participation in a Sun Records reunion. "They were always the folks he looked up to, especially Carl Perkins. But Pop had always felt like the one on the outside -- the 'rich kid from Hollywood.' He was invited to be part of this reunion about six months before he died. He was so nervous and uncomfortable being there. He was worried about being accepted. But at one point in the evening, there he was, left alone in the studio with his all-time idol, Carl Perkins. A calm settled over the room. Carl turned to Pop and said, 'Well, Ricky, it looks like we're the last two real rockabilly cats left.' That floored my dad. He never got over how good it made him feel."

    The modest and dedicated Nelson inevitably made lasting impressions on his fellow musicians. Beland recalls his years with Nelson fondly. "For a musician, it just doesn't get any better than that. Ricky was such a great performer and such a wonderful, warm human being. Every day spent with him was a pleasure."

    Stoker, whose final Nelson dates came just three months before the singer's tragic end, says, "We've worked with so many wonderful people over the years. But I don't think we ever had as much deep love for any other entertainer as we had for Rick Nelson. Music was so important to him, right up 'til the day he died. When he got on that stage with that band going, he just loved it. It always really turned him on.

    "There are still so many Rick Nelson fans around the world," Stoker says. "A lot of people say that there'll never be anyone who sings with that kind of ease and who knows how to select such good material, like Rick did. He was very sincere with his music and that got across to people."

    Gunnar Nelson hopes the box set will extend and enhance his father's legacy. "It's 100 of the greatest Ricky Nelson songs, hand-picked to let the listener know the soul and spirit of Rick Nelson more completely. By the time the listener gets through the box set, they will feel like they have not only touched the heart of the man Rick Nelson was, but they will also empathize with his struggles to remain his own artist and his own man throughout his life -- a struggle we should all be willing to face head-on so courageously."

    UPDATE: March, 1999
    Rick Nelson's Photo Page

    UPDATE: June 1998

    Rick Nelson Reissued Material

    Bright Lights & Country Music --- Country Fever - Many of you have called and e-mailed regarding Rick's country recordings, They are being re-released and here's some info. Ace-CDCHD 670 - By the time Rick Nelson recorded the two country albums that make up this 2-on-1 reissue, he already had a decade of experience behind him. He enjoyed phenomenal success after singing a five year recording deal with Imperial Records back in 1957. The majority of his early hits; "Be Bop Baby," "Stood Up," Believe What You Say" and the like were to become classic hits in the field of rock 'n' roll. When hard-driving rock began to soften towards the early 1960's, Rick turned his hand to beat ballads and continued his success with the Decca Record company after signing a lucrative 20 year contract in 1962.

    During the first couple of years with Decca, Rick's string of successes continued; part of Decca's investment was returned as "String Along," "Fools Rush In," "For You," and "The Very Thought Of You" hit the charts....but then, suddenly, the hits dried up.

    Rick had always enjoyed country music and although he was never regarded as a country singer, much of his early success had strong country connections. Both BRIGHT LIGHTS and COUNTRY FEVER were recorded in Decca's west coast studios and sometime after the 1966 release of the BRIGHT LIGHTS album, Rick said: "When I first decided to cut those records, I wanted to prove the point that good country music could be recorded here in the west, without having to go to Nashville" ...and on Listening to these two albums you will realize that he was right!

    Rick augmented his regular four piece band by adding Glen D. Hardin, Clarence White and Glen Campbell to the country sessions. It was, however, the superb muisicianship of James Burton, who put down his guitar in favor of slide dobro, that gave each and every one of these tracks its cutting edge. Many of the songs on the BRIGHT LIGHTS album had already enjoyed chart success and, by the time Rick's versions reached the airwaves, the fans were already aware of the material. Consequently, "Bright Lights & Country Music", "Louisiana Man," "Truck Driving Man," and "Hello Walls" were soon to be regarded as important steps in Nelson's career.

    The COUNTRY FEVER album, recorded in 1967, continued in the same vein. Again, the songs of established country songwriters were used to great effect; the songs of Merle Travis, Willie Nelson and the legendary Hank Williams helped put COUNTRY FEVER in the Country charts....and Rick Nelson once again became one of the most sought after artists in America.

    Bright Lights and Country Music
    Truck Drivin' Man
    You Just Can't Quit
    Louisiana Man
    Welcome To My World
    Kentucky Means Paradise
    Here I Am
    Bright Lights And Country Music
    Hello Walls
    No Vacancy
    I'm A Fool To Care
    Night Train To Memphis

    Country Fever Take A City Bride
    Funny How Time Slips Away
    The Bridge Washed Out
    Big Chief Buffalo Nickel (Desert Blues)
    Mystery Train
    Things You Gave Me
    Take These Chains From My Heart
    (I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle Blow
    Walkin' Down The Line
    You Win Again
    Salty Dog

    A Look Into Rick's Life


    "DAD, I WANT to make a record..." Thus, according to legend, began the recording career of Ricky Nelson. In the wake of Elvis, the winter of 1956-57 saw many an American teenager wanting to make a record. However, such was the ideology of teenage rebellion that few would have considered going to their parents for assistance. Even fewer could have gone with any expectation that Mum or Dad could help make that dream a reality.

    But then, Eric Hilliard Nelson was not exactly your standard American teenager. At age 16, he was a showbiz veteran who was probably as well known to America's youth as Presley. And although his father, Ozzie, didn't own a record company, he was the producer and star of the long-running television series, "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet' on which 'Little Ricky' was a featured player as the youngest member of the Nelson family.

    Ozzie Nelson was a Thirties band leader who turned his attention to radio in 1944. The outcome of this was a nationally-syndicated situation comedy show, "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet', the last-named being his actress/singer wife. In 1949, Ricky and his brother David joined the show's cast, playing themselves. The show transferred successfully to television in 1952 - it was to run until 1965 - and the whole family starred in a feature film, "Here Come The Nelsons." Thus, by 1956, when young Ricky Nelson asked his father to help him make a record, the request seemed natural. A brief career as a teen idol was, at the very least, clearly in the cards.

    Ozzie Nelson made the necessary phone calls, a contract with Verve was signed and Ricky went into the studio to cut three sides. Problems at once occurred. Ricky wanted his cover of Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin" to be the main title, while his parents and Verve wanted the ballad, 'A Teenager's Romance', as the A-side. Their concern was to market Ricky on the basis of his role in "Adventures," in which his cheeky lopsided grin and "I don't mess around, boy" catchphrase suggested rebelliousness but went no further. Parental opinion won the day, but to everyone's surprise both sides made the Top Twenty, in 1957, selling a million copies. Ricky Nelson had gained acceptance as both rock'n'roller and teen idol.


    The contrast in style and direction between the two sides of Nelson's first disc was to reverberate down the years of his career. The lush empty balladry of "A Teenager's Romance" suggested a future as a vacuous teen idol, a cute image to sell records with. "Im Walking," with cheerful enthusiasm, wasn't the rockabilly rock'n'roll of Presley or Perkins - but then Rick Nelson was middle-class, not a poor white Southerner - yet it succeeded in creating that sense of pure unalloyed joy at being young and alive that characterized so much of the best of white rock'n'roll.

    Verve's lack of sympathy with Ricky's rock'n'roll desires was made clear when they released another romantic epic, "You're My One And Only Love" as the follow up. Lew Chudd of Imperial Records - the company for which Fats Domino had recorded the original "I'm Walkin" - moved quickly in mid-1957 and signed Nelson to a long-term contract that was to last seven years and bring the company 36 Hot Hundred titles (many of which were double-sided hits).

    Along with the move to Imperial came a toughening-up of the Nelson sound. First Chudd helped assemble an all-important band with James Kirkland (later replaced by Joe Osborne) on bass, Butch White (later replaced by Ritchie Frost) on drums, Gene Garth on piano and James Burton on lead guitar. The band had previously backed Bob Luman and were all rockabilly players par excellence.

    After Scotty Moore and Carl Perkins, James Burton was the most fluent guitarist in the Southern rockabilly style. His work with Nelson and other artists on the West Coast throughout the Fifties and Sixties (before he became the leader of Presley's touring band in the Seventies) virtually kept the rockabilly style alive.

    Nelson's singing style was always clipped and clean, rather than raw and casual. Assisted by the lead guitar playing of Burton or, on the earliest sides, Joe Maphis, Nelson and the group created the synthesis of country, rockabilly and rock'n'roll out of which West Coast country rock would eventually emerge.

    Moreover, Nelson had the good sense to seek out new young songwriters, like the Burnette Brothers, who together and separately provided songs like "Waiting In School" (1957), "Believe What You Say" (1958) - which, a decade later, was to become the theme song of Nelson's revived career as a country rocker - "It's Late" and "Long Vacation" (both 1959) and "My One Desire" (1960). He also recorded songs by Baker Knight, who wrote over 20 songs for Nelson, including "Lonesome Town" (1958) and "There'll Never Be Anyone Else But You" (1959), as well as songs by his producer, Jerry Fuller ("Travelin' Man" in 1961) and by Gene Pitney ("Hello Mary Lou." also in 1961).


    With the obvious exception of the early Burnette rockers, the vibrancy of "I'm Walking" rarely figured on Nelson's Imperial sides. In its place was the gentle, wistful sound, typified by "There'll Never Be Anyone Else But You," which was wholly unique. A change of musical climate was around the corner, however. Whereas before 1960, Nelson had been a gentler Eddie Cochran figure singing honestly about teenage emotions, thereafter he was just one of many teenage idols competing for attention.

    Nelson tried to broaden his career but, despite the marvellous impetus of a part in Howard Hawks' Western "Rio Bravo" in 1958, the movie didn't quite work. His performance as Colorado, the young gunslinger, was more than worthy of the good press notices it received, particularly for his duet with Dean Martin on "My Rifle, Pony And Me" and his soloing of "Cindy," but from then on his acting career went downhill. The song he commissioned for the film from Johnny Cash, "Restless Kid," wasn't used, and then the next part he was offered was in "The Wackiest Ship In The Army", a film whose title tells all.

    Surprisingly for someone with a showbiz background, the Nelson career was sputtering to a halt. By all accounts, part of the reason was his declining interest in both the music scene and life as a teenage idol - in 1959, the Nelsons had to erect an electric fence around their home to keep away the fans - but the major reason seems to have been a genuine confusion as to what he wanted to become and a lack of managerial direction.

    Nelson clearly wanted to develop - he dropped the "y" from his Christian name in 1961 - but he was rapidly becoming a has-been as rock'n'roll moved into its high-school phase where pizzicato strings, gimmicky arrangements and emotions were endlessly provided by a series of fabricated teen idols. Nelson's quiet rockers were suddenly as unfashionable as the Sun sides of Elvis Presley.


    He remained with Imperial until 1963, when he switched to Decca (later MCA) where he struggled on for a couple of years, crooning 'adult' ballads like 'Fools Rush In' (1963) and "The Very Thought Of You" (1964). But it wasn't until the end of the sixties that Nelson rediscovered his direction and commercial success again. The night-club circuit had helped him survive the British invasion and psychedelia, and two albums he cut in 1967 showed the way forward. These were "Bright Lights And Country Music" and "Country Fever", which were among the earliest country rock albums.

    In 1969 Nelson finally took the plunge, quite cabaret and began playing rock clubs with a new backing group, The Stone Canyon Band. Among its early members were Randy Meisner (later of Poco and the Eagles), Steve Love (who later joined Roger McGuinn) and steel guitarist Tom Brumley, a refugee from country star buck Owens' backing group, the Buckaroos. By now committed to the sound of country rock, Nelson refused to be limited by it, as the first hit of his revived career - a stripped-down version of Dylan's "She Belongs To Me' (1969) - demonstrated. A further indication of his returning confidence came with his first albums of the new decade: a live album, "Rick Nelson In Concert", and "Rick Sings Nelson" (1970) which provided another hit with "Easy To Be Free," a key expression of the honest individualism that was to give him his biggest hit of the Seventies, "Garden Party" (1972). "Rudy The Fifth," released in the previous year, had been Nelson's 27th album and saw him continuing in a country direction. "I always wanted to be Carl Perkins" was a later quote.

    As his career had taken an upturn, Nelson had carefully kept himself apart from the growing band of rock'n'roll revivalists who in the uncertain years of the early seventies were trading on the memories and growing sense of nostalgia of their audience. Thus, Nelson's concerts and records contained only a smattering of oldies. But in 1971 he was invited to perform at a charity concert at Madison Square Garden and to his surprise was booed off the stage. In "Garden Party" he reflected his philosophy in the refrain: "If memories were all I sang, I'd rather drive a truck."

    On the cover of the "Garden Party" album nelson was pictured nervously clutching a guitar, half-smiling into the camera in his low-key suit. He certainly looked different from his Fifties image. But the song, sung over a walking bass line that bore an uncanny resemblance to that of "Never Be Anyone Else But You," was performed with a directness and confidence that was startling. It seemed that having evaded his past for so long, Nelson had finally come to terms with it and succeeded in carving out a new career for himself. But, sadly, the Stone Canyon band quit Nelson soon afterwards and the self-produced albums that followed, on the MCA and Epic labels, saw him retreating into whimsical pleasantries, even though they contained songs by the likes of Baker Knight. The music of this period was only too forgettable, and once more Nelson's career seemed to be drifting aimlessly. After Presley's death, he briefly hooked up with Colonel Tom Parker as manager, but even the Colonel couldn't give his career its necessary sense of direction.

    Despite Rick Nelson's consistent attempts to develop, his career reveals an innate sense of caution that he has only intermittently overcome. When, as on "I'm Walking." "Be Bop Baby," "Never Be Anyone Else But You" and "Garden Party," he overcame that caution the results were magical moments. In Ed Ward's phrase, Rick Nelson "had the soul of a rocker;" the tragedy was that his background was continually pulling him the other way. For Nelson, unlike, say, Gram Parsons, country rock was a compromise music - a music to soothe, not shatter and illuminate the harsh world he was protected from.

    -Written in 1982 by PHIL HARDY, The History of Rock, part 16.

  • Rick Movies on VHS & Dvd: here are some titles from
    Rio Bravo (1959) -- VHS Our Price: $13.99
    Rio Bravo (1959) -- DVD Our Price: $15.99
    The Wackiest Ship in the Army (1961)-- VHS Our Price: $13.99
    Here Come the Nelsons (1952)VHS -- Our Price: $13.99
    Milton Berle Show/Ozzie & Harriet(1952) VHS -- Our Price: $9.99
    Over the Hill Gang (1969)VHS -- Our Price: $9.99

  • More Videos:
    Hardy Boys (1977) VHS - Our Price: $11.99 - A must for Rick Nelson Fans! Great concert footage!, October 19, 1999 This video is rated 5 stars not just for the show itself, which isn't bad, but for the fact that Rick Nelson sings about 8 songs in it. Real concert footage of Rick before a real crowd is used. Unlike his contemporary Elvis Presley, it is hard to find concert footage of Rick Nelson. In this show Rick plays rocker Tony Eagle. The Hardy Boys foil a plot against his life. Ironically the villan tries to cause Tony Eagle's plane to crash. The Hardy Boys prevent Tony's plane from taking off.<
    Streets of San Francisco, The - V. 5: episodes: Harem/No Place to Hide (1972) VHS ~ Limited Availability Our Price: $13.99 - Rick Guest starred in "Harem" as "William T. "Billy" Jeffers" in episode: "Harem" (episode # 2.7) 1973

  • You can also find extensive photos and memories in Kristin Nelson's pictoral autobiography "Out Of My Mind". It's OOP,  but some stores still carry copies.
    Out of My Mind: An Autobiography by Kristin Nelson Tinker.      10 available used from $10.95 - A Beautiful Coffee Table Book, September 23, 1999 Review: Kristin Nelson Tinker gives us an insider look at what it is like to be a part of America's most celebrated television family through beautiful artwork and stirring poetry. A first hand account of the perfect sitcom family and what happened after the cameras stopped rolling. This book will make a wonderful addition to your living room. It is a fantastic conversation piece!

  • Official Rick Nelson website from EPE

  • Legacy -- Rick Nelson: A Rock and Roll Pioneer

  • Rick's youngest son, Sam is also doing music and has his own website which can be found at

  • Rick Nelson Photos


    E-mail the RHOF Office

    © Rockabilly Hall of Fame®