Baby Boomer Celebrity: What Happened to Ricky Nelson?

Posted on May 26th, 2011 in 1950s,1960s,1970s,1980s,Celebrities,Music,Pop Culture by Terry Hamburg

Let’s settle one “fact” right away. The 1985 plane crash that took my life was due to mechanical failure, not because everyone aboard was free-basing cocaine as was rumored, and still believed by some.

First rocker on cover of Life, which coined “teen idol” to describe him

I don’t need to tell you how big a baby boomer celebrity I was, but I will. Bigger than Elvis? Yes, for a time. During 1958 and 1959, I had 12 hits on the charts to 11 for The King. My dad Ozzie, who showcased me on the Ozzie & Harriet Show, also held back my career when he vetoed appearances on other venues like Ed Sullivan and American Bandstand.

Here are the three baby boomer “teen idols” in the Golden Years (Top 40 hits 1957-62):

Elvis: 53
Pat Boone: 38
Ricky Nelson: 30

In the mid-60s, the baby boomer music scene was a’ changing with Bob Dylan & the British Invasion & Psychedelic Music. I formed by own group, the Stone Canyon Band, and drifted toward country-style and rockabilly. Those great pop culture song writers feeding me hits were long gone. I didn’t break into the Top Forty again until I did Dylan’s She Belongs to Me in 1970.

Then, there was “the moment.” In 1972, I appeared at Madison Square Garden. I was playing my new music and others’ songs. The  audience wanted the old Ricky and booed me off stage. In exasperation, I went on to write what most consider my best song, Garden Party, which reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary.

It jump started my career but I didn’t jump very far. I was still stuck in the Knott’s Berry Farm/Disneyland theme circuit. I kept on truckin’ till the end.

Trivia Factoids

· Ricky married the daughter of football great Tom Harmon, Kris, who joined the cast of Ozzie & Harriet as Ricky’s wife. They had four children. A year before their divorce, Ricky fathered a child with another woman. He was engaged to a part-time model Helen Blair, who was killed with him in the plane crash.

· Helen’s parents wanted to bury their daughter next to Ricky but Harriet Nelson refused.

· One of Ricky’s children, Tracy Nelson, was an actress, best known as Sister Stephanie (“Steve”), the sidekick of Father Dowling in the television series The Father Dowling Mysteries.

Baby Boomer Trivia Questions

What happened to Ricky’s real life and sit-com brother, David?

· Returned to school and became a successful Hollywood plastic surgeon
· Film and TV director
· Pastor of a born-again Christian Church
· Hollywood agent and manager

Only one song ever won #1 Billboard single of the year for both Pop and Country.

Cold Cold Heart
I Fall to Pieces
Battle of New Orleans
Always on my Mind

Which artist or group has the top selling album of all time in the U.S.?

The Eagles
Michael Jackson
Billy Joel
Led Zeppelin

Answers at end of post

Today in Baby Boomer History

1998: President Clinton loses Supreme Court that the Paula Jones sex harassment suit cannot be filed against a sitting President.

1994: Not made in baby boomer heaven. Michael Jackson (35) weds Elvis’ daughter Lisa Marie Presley (26).

1987: Supreme Court rules that certain “dangerous” defendants can be held without bail.

1978: First legal gambling casino opens in Atlantic City.

1977: The movie Star Wars debuts.

1972: Nixon and Brezhnev sign SALT – a limited but historic nuclear disarmament treaty.

1963: The Dick Van Dyke Show is  Best Comedy. The Defenders and its star E.G. Marshall pick up Best Drama and Best Dramatic Actor.

1959: Greatest loser ever. Harvey Haddix pitches 12 perfect innings, loses in 13th.

Answers to Baby Boomer Trivia Questions

David stayed in Hollywood as a minor producer and director.

Battle of New Orleans sung by Johnny Horton was both the #1 Pop and Country hit of 1959.

The Eagles, Their Greatest Hits (1971-75), is the best selling album in the U.S. Its 29x platinum certification narrowly edges Michael Jackson’s 28x Thriller

√ Watch Ricky sing Garden Party: You can’t please everyone, so you gotta please yourself.

Related post: Baby Boomers Want Their MTV!

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