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  Ricky Nelson
Eric Hilliard Nelson – known as Ricky Nelson, later also as Rick Nelson – was an American actor, musician and singer-songwriter. Wikipedia
Born: May 8, 1940, Teaneck, NJ
Died: December 31, 1985, De Kalb, TX
Spouse: Kristin Nelson (m. 1963–1982)
Children: Gunnar Nelson, Tracy Nelson, Eric Jude Crewe, Sam Nelson, Matthew Nelson
Siblings: David Nelson
American singer and songwriter Ricky Nelson was an early teen idol who acted out his real-life childhood on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

American singer and songwriter Ricky Nelson was an early teen idol who acted out his real-life childhood as the son of Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Nelson in the popular series, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. He began to conclude each episode with a song from his band and quickly became famous as a musician. He went on to produce a number of albums and owned the music charts for a three-year period from 1957 through 1959 with his hit songs. He died in a plane crash on December 31, 1985.

Nelson's father was a famous bandleader and his mother a singer and actress who had been famous since the early '30s. In 1949, Rick and his older brother David began playing themselves on their parents' popular radio comedy series, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which went to TV three years later. From his first appearance, the impish, wisecracking Rick became the program's most popular character. His trademark line, "I don't mess around, boy," became a national catchphrase with prepubescent viewers. Not surprisingly, when Ricky began singing on the show in 1957, he had a massive audience. According to Nelson, he had no musical ambitions until a girlfriend said she was in love with Elvis Presley. He reported that he too was cutting a record —which in reality he had no plans to do —and then did.

His first hit was a cover of Fats Domino's "I'm Walking"; it went to #4 in 1959 and sold a million records after Nelson performed it on TV. The flip side, "A Teenager's Romance," hit #2. Between then and 1961, Nelson had more than two dozen pop hits, several of them double-sided, including the rockabilly "Be-Bop Baby" (#3, 1957), "Stood Up" (#2, 1958) b/w "Waitin' in School" (#18, 1958), "Believe What You Say" (#4, 1958) b/w "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" (#12, 1958), "Lonesome Town" (#7, 1958) b/w "I Got a Feeling" (#10, 1958), "It's Late" (#9, 1959) b/w "Never Be Anyone Else but You" (#6, 1959), "Just a Little Too Much" (#9, 1959). He also hit with ballads, such as "Poor Little Fool" (#1, 1958), Baker Knight's "Lonesome Town," "Sweeter Than You" (#9, 1959), and "Travelin' Man" (#1, 1961) and its B-side, the Gene Pitney —penned "Hello Mary Lou" (#9, 1961). Some of Nelson's early hits, including "Waitin'," "Believe What You Say," and "It's Late," were penned by Dorsey and/or Johnny Burnette [see entries]. For seven years, Nelson's backup band featured James Burton, who later became Presley's lead guitarist.



Nelson continued to record (he'd signed a 20-year contract in 1963) but, as he later admitted, without enthusiasm until he began recording in a style that would soon become known as country rock. On Bright Lights & Country Music and Country Fever, Nelson covered material by Doug Kershaw, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, and Bob Dylan, as well as contributed his own "Alone." Hanging out at the L.A. country-rock bastion the Troubadour, Nelson recruited ex-Poco bassist Randy Meisner and began forming the Stone Canyon Band, which at various times would also include Dennis Larden of Every Mother's Son; Richie Hayward, briefly on leave from Little Feat; Tom Brumley of Buck Owens' Buckaroos; Steve Love, later with Roger McGuinn and the New Riders of the Purple Sage; and Steve Duncan, later of the Desert Rose Band. With this group, he scored a minor commercial comeback with a cover of Dylan's "She Belongs to Me" (#33, 1969). A double live album recorded at the Troubadour in 1970, Rick Nelson in Concert, marked a crucial turning point for Nelson. With songs by Dylan, Tim Hardin, and Eric Andersen (who supplied the liner notes), it put to rest the charge that he was a talentless teen idol and garnered unanimous rave reviews.

On December 31, 1985, en route to a New Year's Eve show in Dallas, Texas, Nelson's DC-3 (which had previously been owned by Jerry Lee Lewis) caught on fire and crashed in a field near DeKalb, Texas. Early press reports erroneously suggested that drug use, namely freebasing cocaine, might have played a role in the accident that killed Rick, his band, and his fiancée, Helen Blair (the pilot and copilot survived). In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board's 1987 report determined that the fire began in a malfunctioning gas heater. Nelson was buried in L.A.'s Forest Lawn Cemetery.