Ricky Nelson

Ricky Nelson

Synopsis of Pop Music

"I'm a travelin' man,
Made a lot of stops all over the world..."

It was easy for Ricky Nelson to achieve success as a teen idol. After all, he had a role on television’s most successful sitcom and could use it as a platform to promote his music. However, the music Nelson made still holds up today because the songs were high in quality and crafted with care. As a result, Ricky Nelson has always been one of the most fondly-remembered teen idols.

Ricky Nelson began his career in an unusual way: He played the role of himself on his father’s radio show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Other actors had played Ricky and his brother David in the early years, but starting in 1949, the real Nelson boys took up the mic. Ricky continued to play the role when the show moved to television, and his natural good looks made him a pin-up sensation with teenage girls. Ricky was not initially interested in a musical career, but legend has it that he became jealous when his girlfriend became infatuated in Elvis Presley. He told her he would make a single of his own and made good with a cover version of Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin’” in 1957. It quickly went to #4 on the pop charts, no doubt aided by the fact that Ricky performed it on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

After this success, Nelson’s teen-idol career was a sure thing, but he didn't rest on his laurels. In fact, he took an active role in choosing the songs he recorded. Nelson, a fan of musicians like Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley, mixing effective, authentic-sounding rockabilly rave-ups like “Be Bop Baby” and “Hello Mary Lou” in with the smooth balladry that people expected from a teen idol.

However, Ricky Nelson found his biggest success with gentler fare. He made frequent trips into the Top-10 with ballads like “Poor Little Fool,” "Travelin' Man," "Young World," "Teen Age Idol" and the haunting "Lonesome Town." The down-home style of many of these ballads reflected Nelson’s love of country music. Overall, Nelson’s songs hit the Top-40 thirty times between 1957 and 1962. This put him second only to Elvis Presley in overall chart success during this time.

Nelson continued to have big hits into the mid-60’s with “Fools Rush In” and “For You.” In 1966, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet ended its 14-year run on television. Rick continued to record after the show ended and played up his love of country music in his later work. He recorded songs by country greats like Willie Nelson and Buck Owens and formed the Stone Canyon Band, a backing group with the chops necessary to play this Nashville-styled material. Nelson’s work with the Stone Canyon Band won him widespread critical acclaim and influenced future followers of the country-rock trend like the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt.

In 1972, Nelson received a chilly reception doing his more overtly-country material at an oldies show, inspiring him to sit down a write a song in response. The result was "Garden Party," a song that became a Top-10 hit. Nelson continued to record and perform in his slick-yet-countrified vein up until his untimely death in 1985. He is missed by music fans around the world, but left behind a body of work that will continue to delight both pop and country fans for years to come.

Artist Release History

1957 - Teen Time
1957 - Ricky
1958 - Ricky Nelson
1959 - Ricky Sings Again
1959 - Songs by Ricky
1960 - More Songs by Ricky
1961 - Rick Is 21
1962 - Album Seven
1963 - For Your Sweet Love
1963 - It's Up to You
1963 - Long Vacation
1963 - Sings for You
1963 - Sings for You
1964 - The Very Thought of You
1965 - Spotlight on Rick
1966 - Love and Kisses
1966 - Bright Lights & Country Music
1967 - Country Fever
1968 - I Need You
1968 - Perspective
1969 - Another Side of Rick
1970 - Rick Nelson in Concert (live)
1970 - Rick Nelson in Concert (live)
1970 - Rick Sings Nelson
1971 - Rudy the Fifth
1972 - Garden Party
1973 - Rick Nelson Country
1974 - Windfall
1990 - Legendary Masters

Pop Sub Categories


Essential Music Albums

Ricky Nelson, Vol. 1 (EMI)
Ricky Nelson, Vol. 2 (EMI)
Best of the Later Years: 1963-1975 (Ace)

Band Members

Ricky Nelson  vocals, guitar

Other Pop Music Links