In 1957 Rick Nelson was on top of the world. Or so he thought. He was featured on his parent's TV show "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet." The younger of two brothers, he seemed to take to the camera better than the more serious Dave. But despite such notoriety he was about to be taken down a notch. While on a date his girlfriend couldn't stop talking about the new kid on the block, Elvis Presley. At first he just tried to shrug it off but she kept going on how great and wonderful Elvis was. Rock n' Roll had only been around a couple of years. Television was practically a decade old. Rick was definitely "old hat." Then came the fateful comment that forever changed Rick Nelson's life. "Oh yeah, Presley's not so great. Besides, I'm gonna make a record myself." Well, the girlfriend was duly impressed. Rick 's only problem was didn't have a clue how to make a record or where to go.
Just like the show, when Rick got in over his head, he went to Dad to get it straightened out. Turned out to be a smart move. Former bandleader Ozzie had connections in the music biz and got Rick hooked up with Verve Records. Short term, it was a deal. Long term, Verve didn't fairly pay royalties, which caused Nelson to quickly move to Imperial Records. The first shot at the big time was a cover of Fats Domino's "I'm Walking." For a cover, it wasn't bad. The TV exposure made it a hit.
Nelson recorded several songs by Johnny and Dorsey Burnette (of the Rock N' Roll Trio) including the Rockin' "It's Late." The hits kept coming with "Hello Mary Lou (Goodbye Heart)," "Poor Little Fool," the ballad "Lonesome Town," and "Travelin' Man." Jerry Fuller wrote "Travelin' Man" and sent it to Sam Cooke first, who passed on it.
Interestingly, Nelson seemed to inject a Country flavor into his records. By the mid-60s when the hits had stopped, Nelson went Country/Rock. He also started writing his own songs and put together the Stone Canyon Band that included future Eagle Randy Meisner. His Country/Rock got him booed at the Rock 'n' Roll Revival show in New York's Madison Square Garden. That '71 experience led Nelson to write and record "Garden Party." While not a Rock song it does have some lyrical bite to it.
As a Country/Rock artist Nelson had a frustrating time. Whether it was timing, the stars or something else, he never connected with a large audience even though he got to the Eagles sound before they did and usually did a better job of it. He toured heavily playing a combination of his old and new material. While he was on tour in '85, Nelson's plane went down near De Kalb, Texas. He was killed along with band members.
1958 Ricky Nelson
1959 Ricky Sings Again
1959 Songs By Ricky (Ricky Sings Spirituals)
1960 More Songs By Ricky
1961 Rick Is 21
1961 Album Seven By Rick
1962 Best Sellers By Rick Nelson
1962 It's Up to You
1962 Million Sellers
1962 A Long Vacation
1963 Rick Nelson Sings For You
1963 For Your Sweet Love 20
1964 Rick Nelson Sings "For You"
1964 The Very Thought Of You
1965 Spotlight On Rick
1965 Best Always
1965 Love And Kisses
1966 Bright Lights and Country Music
1966 On the Flip Side
1967 Another Side Of Rick Nelson
1967 Country Fever
1970 In Concert
1970 Rick Sings Nelson
1971 Rudy The Fifth
1972 Garden Party
1978 Return To Vienna
1981 Playing To Win
1985 All My Best
1986 The Memphis Sessions
1989 Lonesome Town
2005 Greatest Hits
2007 Ricky Rocks
Growing up on TV in the '50s got him his break but it also caused him to be never taken seriously, much to his consternation. There are actually two Nelson careers worth mentioning.
His Rock 'n' Roll, teen idol period is covered in "Ricky Nelson: The Legendary Masters Series." "The Best of Ricky Nelson Volume 2" is also another excellent choice but the real key to Nelson 's worth as a Rocker becomes apparent with "Rockin' With Ricky." Despite the title this compilation is excellent featuring B-sides and LP tracks and shows Nelson's depth and abilities.
Forget his '60s pop material. Not a whole lot there. Also, stay away from Curb Records cheap re-packaging. Songs were either re-recorded, so they're not the original classic version, or were re-mixed. Look for original master recordings.
In the late '60s Nelson started the Stone Canyon Band. While never achieving great success this is really Nelson's best and most creative period as he transforms his Rock-A-Billy roots into Country/Rock. Vastly superior to most other Country/Rock of the time it's amazing he didn't have a greater impact. "Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band 1969-1976" gleans the best.