Ricky Nelson Trivia

Celebrity Q&A
on May 21, 2011

Gunnar and Matthew Nelson’s dad, Ricky Nelson, was a household name as a cast member of The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet and a teen idol in the 1950s, but here are some fun facts about the late rock and roller that you might not know.

  • Ricky Nelson was not the name on his birth certificate, nor was Richard. Ricky was born Eric Hilliard Nelson. Eric is also son Gunnar Nelson’s middle name.
  • Life magazine coined the phrase “teen idol” to describe the unprecedented hullabaloo surrounding Nelson’s popularity.
  • Many consider the film made for Travelin’ Man, which features Nelson over a montage of the countries mentioned in his song, to be the first conceptual music video—decades before MTV. It aired during an episode of on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet.
  • The Nelson clan is in Guinness World Records as the only family in show business with three successive generations of No. 1 hit makers. Ozzie went No. 1 in 1934 with the big band number “And Then Some.” Ricky reached the top of the charts with “Poor Little Fool” and “Travelin’ Man.” And Nelson, the duo of Ricky’s twin sons Matthew and Gunnar, went to the top with “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection.”
  • Nelson provided a voiceover for the 1970 Academy Award-winning short film The Resurrection of Broncho Billy, which starred his wife, Kristin, and Johnny Crawford, who played son Mark on TV’s The Rifleman.
  • It was all for a girl that Nelson began recording. While on a date, his girl swooned over Elvis Presley, causing Nelson to claim that he, too, sang rock and roll. To prove it, he went to a recording studio and cut a cover of Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin’.” The song went on to sell two million copies the week he performed it on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet.
  • Despite his numerous chart successes, Nelson never appeared on American Bandstand.
  • The song “Garden Party” was based on the true story of Nelson’s playing at Madison Square Garden, where he was booed off stage at a ’50s revival because he showed up with long hair and wearing bell-bottom pants, and he performed a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman” instead of his own hits.
  • He was the first artist to have a No. 1 song (“Poor Little Fool”), No. 1 TV show (The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet) and No. 1 movie (Rio Bravo) all in the same week.
  • Nelson was also the first artist to chart the first No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
  • He died on Dec. 31, 1985, along with his fiancé and five of his band members, in the crash of his private DC-3 propeller aircraft, which once belonged to piano pounder Jerry Lee Lewis.
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