Ricky Nelson, one of the most popular adolescent idols of the late 1950s and early 1960s, was born Eric Hilliard Nelson on May 8, 1940, in Teaneck, New Jersey. Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Hilliard Nelson, an entertainment couple, were his parents.
His parents starred in “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” which the older Nelson brothers, Ricky and David, joined when they were 8 and 12 years old, respectively. The show ran for 16 years in a row, a record in TV sitcom history.
Ricky attended Gardner Street Public School before moving on to Bancroft Junior High and Hollywood High School. Ricky despised the school, despite his father’s demand that he earn a college degree.
Ricky was already generating substantial income by the time he was of college age, earning up to $100,000 per year. As a result, he saw no reason to go to school.
Ricky released his first single, “I’m Walking,” at the age of 17, after making his television debut, singing and playing the drums to the same song on the “Ricky, The Drummer” episode of the family program. The song peaked at No. 4 on Billboard’s Best Sellers chart.
Ricky was only getting started, and he would go on to record more popular music in the years that followed. His songs included “Garden Party,” “It’s Late,” “Fools Rush In,” “For You,” “Poor Little Fool,” and “Traveling Man,” among many more.
Ricky originally presented most of his songs to fans on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” before releasing them as singles.
Ricky remembered the 1961 Christmas holiday season fondly. He had started dating years before, but his mother disapproved of all of his romantic pursuits.
He was dating Kristin Harmon at the time. They had a lot in common, including overbearing dads, a Hollywood background, and modest demeanors.
The ribbon that tied the small package together, though, was that the Harmons and Nelsons had been long-time friends. Their children’s dating had a lot of appeals, so the two kids married in April 1963.
They have four children: Sam Hilliard Nelson, twins Matthew Gray Nelson and Gunnar Eric Nelson, and Tracy Kristine Nelson, an actress.
Ricky went on to have a streak of Top 40 rock and roll successes over the next decade after making his music debut. Except for Pat Boone and Elvis Presley, he held a record that no other musician of his day could match.
Throughout the decade, his music was still popular, and he was even said to have influenced artists like The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt.
He continues to tour often to promote his songs and introduce the world to the greatness of his voice. Ricky died tragically on one of these tours, causing the world to mourn for him and the legacy he had left behind.
Ricky had never enjoyed flying and had even gone through psychoanalysis to get himself on flights. It felt vital since he wanted to reach out to a larger audience, including individuals who traveled long distances from his birthplace.
Ricky was planning to go to Dallas for the New Year’s Eve event with his twin kids, Matthew and Gunnar, towards the end of the year. Gunnar stated:
“On that trip, we were meant to be on the plane. “Our father contacted us shortly before we were due to travel down to Alabama to meet him for the New Year’s Eve gig in Dallas.”
Ricky had a premonition a few days before they departed for the Dallas show, and he opted not to travel with his boys. As a result, he called them to inform them of the news.
Gunnar believes his father changed his mind because the plane they were meant to fly on had engine issues. Their father’s last-minute choice saved their lives.
Ricky boarded the chartered DC-3 in Alabama on that fateful day. Ricky’s cabin filled with smoke shortly before landing in Dallas, the result of a fire whose cause has remained unknown for nearly three decades.
Even though the pilot landed the plane in a field near De Kalb, Texas, all of the people on board, including Ricky, died. The fans’ favorite had vanished, taken from the world forever.
Following his untimely death, media sources claimed that the fire was started by Ricky and his then-girlfriend, Helen Blair, when they were “free-basing” cocaine.
Ricky’s brother, on the other hand, firmly denied Ricky had ever taken cocaine. At the same time, Ricky’s manager, Greg McDonald, said that Ricky and Blair were sleeping in their cabin when the smoke began.
Tracy Nelson, Ricky’s daughter, had a different theory. She told Larry King that the plane, called the Flying Bus because of its sluggish speed, had many difficulties with the gasoline heater, which caused the fire.
Thirty years later, there is still no definite hypothesis explaining the origin of the fire that killed one of America’s most renowned rock and roll artists and his band.
Ricky leaves behind four lovely children. Tracy, his daughter, is an actress who is most known for her roles as Rachel in “The Perfect Tenant” and Theda Bara in “As Long as I’m Famous,” among many others.
His twin boys, Matthew and Gunner, are renowned musicians who followed in their father’s footsteps. Aside from traveling in support of their music, they also do special concerts in memory of their father. Matthew explains:
“It’s a continuous work of love, an open letter to our closest friend, our father.”
Sam Nelson, the youngest of the Nelson children, is also a musician and the lead vocalist for his band H is Orange. He is in the band with Guy Staniar, Marcel Blanco, and Troy Brittain.