Ricky Nelson was an early teen idol who had a considerable amount of talent to complement his blue-eyed good looks. On television, he and his older brother David acted out their real-life roles as the sons of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson. As a Rock-and-rolling teenager on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Ricky Nelson practically grew up in the nation’s living rooms. For a period of years, beginning in 1957, each show concluded with a song by Ricky and his band. Many teenagers tuned into the show because of him, and these performances - a harbinger of the kind of impact MTV would have decades later by bringing popular music to TV - helped keep Ozzie and Harriet on the air until 1966.
All totaled, Nelson would score three dozen hits, making him one of the most successfully prolific of all rock and rollers. He placed fifty-three songs on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1957 and 1973, including "Poor Little Fool". It holds the distinction of being the first #1 song on Billboard magazine's then newly created Hot 100 chart. During a three-year period from 1957 through 1959, Nelson owned the pop charts, placing 19 songs in the Top Forty for nearly 200 combined weeks. He recorded nineteen additional top-ten hits, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 21, 1987.
Although Nelson stopped having hits in the Seventies, he remained a hard-working musician who performed up to 200 dates a year. The decade wasn’t entirely kind to him, as personal problems (including a cocaine addiction) began to mount as his popularity waned. His life ended tragically in 1985 when his tour plane caught fire and crashed near a highway in DeKalb, Texas, killing him and six others. Ricky was one of the stars who was featured on our special page, ROCK AND ROLL INNOVATORS.