Monday, May 9, 2011

Ricky Nelson

Ricky Nelson

I can tell you right now, even if I didn't like Rick Nelson, I would still have to write something very, very nice. It seems I am not the only person in my household who has an opinion on rock and roll. My wife thinks Ricky was the greatest. She is from Memphis and Jackson yet prefers Ricky Nelson to Elvis and Carl Perkins. What's more astonishing, she went to school with Carl's kids.

Oh well she knows what she likes and I can't say I blame her. Ricky Nelson was probably the best looking kid in the entire world and he had his mother's singing talent. Harriet Nelson was a super star singer by the time she was 18. This stardom thing was old hat for Ricky and the family. He had been a t.v. star since childhood.

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His poise and experience shows even at 16. He'd had several hits by the time I went to boarding school. I can remember being in a restaurant in Columbia, Tennessee. I think several of us were there with our families. Somebody found the juke box and Ricky Nelson filled the room for the rest of our meal. Something about old Hong Kong and pretty senoritas....made you want to be a "Traveling man". Funny how things like that come back to you.

Ricky Nelson

In high school I had a buddy who thought he was quite the ladies man. Too bad the girls didn't agree. He would walk around singing (to anyone who would listen) "some people call me a teenage idol, some people say they envy me".....well no hoss, we didn't and you weren't. Actually, we were so self conscious we made up things like that to try to cover that afore mentioned "teenage angst".

Ricky was good looking, he was a smooth operator, he was a professional actor and musician. Even before he had a hit he was the most famous teenager in the world. But probably most important to his success was the fact that he had a professional stage dad. Ozzie Nelson had been in the music business since vaudeville. Ricky's family was in show business. The old band leader and the pop star mom set him on the right track from birth. 

Ricky Nelson

Luckily, Ricky listened to his folks. They got him into good Los Angeles studios with great musicians and song writers. The results were predictable. Other good looking cats would come along but without near the professionalism or talent. They would be p.r. factory, one hit wonders like "kookie, kookie, lend me your comb". 

The Nelson's did it right and knew the value of television to sell a song. They would do an album or just be working on one and have Ricky perform a number on the t.v. show. It was guaranteed sales. The Nelson's knew what they were doing.  The teenage idol thing was a no brainer for them.

I have been told Ricky out sold Elvis. I'm not so sure. But he sold a ton of records and made enough money to sink a cruise ship. Still like so many others he had big, big troubles. He stopped listening to his family and everything kinda went to hell in a hand basket. Expensive, bitter divorce, expensive wife, drug habits, spending habits that put a Saudi Sheik to shame are problems to often seen in his profession. The clean cut boy next door was no exception. 

Ricky Nelson

Ricky Nelson's death at age 45 was not of his doing. He didn't overdose or kill himself. However, as we saw with Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and others travel accidents are work related hazards. They weren't the first and won't be the last. When people travel almost constantly the odds build up against them. 

I wish we could just look at the fun stuff. The great records would be nice to talk about and leave it at that. But I think it important for young future rock and rollers to hear the consequences of this wrong track life style.  The point is this. It does not have to end this way. You can have a great career and stay clean and sober. Ask around you'll be surprised how many have done it.

Rick Nelson

I got to see Ricky right before he died. He put on a hell of a show for a big crowd at Lake Lanier, Georgia. He was kind enough to sing a lot of his old songs and that alone made it a great day for me. We all miss that good looking kid from next door. Wish it could have ended differently.

John Boykin

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