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Ricky Nelson

Ricky Nelson first found fame in the 1950s during his stint on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, the popular American sitcom that starred him and his brother, David, alongside their real-life parents.

His baby-faced good looks and easy way with a rockabilly song earned him entry into living rooms closed to edgier early rockers.

In quick succession he reeled off hits such as Be-Bop BabyI’m Walkin’Poor Little FoolTravelin’ Man and Hello Mary Lou.

In the Sixties and Seventies, Nelson attempted to gain a contemporary audience, but in October 1971, he was booed when he tried to perform new songs at Richard Nader’s oldies show at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

On a bill with Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, he neglected some early hits, causing the crowd to yell abuse and stamp their feet.

Nelson walked offstage and later penned the million-selling Garden Party – a song inspired by the event.

His 1970s career, blighted by personal and business problems, faltered. A new deal with a new label would prove hit and miss, but his otherwise anodyne Epic debut album Intakes was lifted by the thoughtful Something You Can’t Buy.

Nelson died when a plane carrying him and his band caught fire and crashed on 31 December 1985, killing the 45-year-old singer, his 27-year-old fiancée, Helen Blair, soundman Clark Russell (35), guitarist Bobby Neal (38), keyboardist Andy Chapin (33), bassist Patrick Woodward (35) and drummer Ricky Intveld (22).

The twin-engine DC-3 crashed in a cow pasture south of De Kalb, Texas, at approximately 5:15 pm. The pilot, Brad Rank (34) and co-pilot Kenneth Ferguson (40) were both thrown from the plane on impact and survived. The plane was totally engulfed in flames.


Nelson and his entourage were on their way to a New Year’s Eve gig in Dallas. Until the time of his death, he and his band were performing nearly 200 dates a year.

Ricky Nelson was voted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1986.