Travelin’ Man: Ricky Nelson Tours America

04/04/2012 § 2 Comments

Interestingly, Ricky Nelson was one of my earliest crushes, due to a Nick At Nite childhood spent watching Donna Reed, My Three Sons and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which Ricky starred on with real-life parents Ozzie and Harriet and brother David from 1952 to 1966.  With its 14 seasons, the show remains the longest-running live action sitcom in history to this day.

Sidenote 1: I’d say my crush was “interesting” mainly because Ricky was dead by the time I fell in love with him.  He died in a plane crash in Texas in 1985.

Sidenote 2: When did Nick At Nite cease actually being Nickelodeon at night and start being its own channel?  And why do they now play shows like Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond and not the classic television they used to play? What the Hell! Who approved this?!

Contrary to his wholesome on-screen persona, Ricky was a bit of a hellcat growing up.  He also didn’t have much musical instruction or knowledge until he was 16, when he simply decided he’d like to make a record.  His father indulged him and Ricky’s music became a part of the family show, starting with his performance of the Fats Domino song I’m Walking in 1957, when he was 17.

The best part might be his dance moves.

An early archetype for what would become the modern teen idol, Ricky’s exposure through his music and the Ozzie and Harriet show caused his popularity to surge — between the years of 1958 and 1959 he charted twelve songs, compared to Elvis Presley’s eleven.  He also holds he distinction for achieving the first ever #1 on the newly-created Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1958 for his performance of Poor Little Fool  — a song he actually hated and refused to perform on the show.

  Poor Little Fool: #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958

  Travelin’ Man: #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961

Hello Mary Lou: #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961.  Ricky actually preferred to play rockabilly songs like Hello Mary Lou, despite the success he had with ballads.

After an abbreviated tour in 1957, Ricky launched a full tour across America in 1958.  Life Magazine sent photographers Ralph Crane and Hank Walker along for the ride to capture the madness, which they did fantastically.  I did include quite a few, I hope you don’t mind.  Obviously I still have a crush.

Fun bit of trivia: the Nelsons are the only family in history to have three generations of #1 hitmakers.  The Ozzie Nelson Orchestra hit number 1 in 1935 with And Then Some, Ricky had his string of hits, and Ricky’s twin sons Matthew and Gunnar, better known as Nelson, hit it in 1990 with (I Can’t Live Without) Your Love and Affection

Sidenote: Would you be very surprised to learn I also nursed a serious crush on Ricky’s sons, they of streaming, flaxen hair, man bangs, exceptionally tight pants and an amazing/ridiculous video for their #6 hit After The Rain?  I suppose my only defense is that it was the 90s, and I was very very very young, after all…

All images via the Life Archive.

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§ 2 Responses to Travelin’ Man: Ricky Nelson Tours America

  • LeAnn says:

    Ah, yes! I had a crush on Ricky, too –but it was back in the 60s. I watched many of the original Ozzie & Harriet shows on a black and white TV.

  • Alexis says:

    You! Are amazing, thank you for this. I feel like I could have written this; my friends are all sick of hearing me mourn the loss of the *real* Nick at Night, but most importantly, I fell in deep infatuation with Ricky at age 8. In 1988. 🙂 he’s still my favorite. Want to see something cool? Google “unpacking statue of liberty face”. there’s a black and white one of just the face, unattached yet, with two ladies standing under it. Looks just like him. Thanks for those amazing Life pics!!

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