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Ricky Nelson was born Eric Hilliard Nelson in Teaneck, New Jersey in 1940. His father was Ozzie Nelson who had been a bandleader since 1930, and who had married pretty singer/actresss Harriet Hilliard in 1935, and had a son, David in 1936, and then Ricky in 1940. In 1944, Ozzie and Harriet realized that they could spend their time together as a family if they did a radio show together, and it was called The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, but for five years their kids were played by actors, because they thought their real kids were too young to be full-time actors. In 1949 the real David and Ricky joined the radio show, and in 1952, a feature film based on the show, Here Come the Nelsons, was made, and after that the show moved to television. When Ricky was 17, rock 'n' roll was all the rage, and savvy Ozzie had his handsome son (who bore a resemblance to Elvis) perform on the show, and he became a teen idol, with several hits, including Poor Little Fool and Travelin' Man. In 1959 he played "Colorado", the polite young gunslinger in the classic Rio Bravo, the John Wayne western, and he received the Golden Globe as Best Newcomer. He followed with a part in The Wackiest Ship in the Army, but his heart was not in making movies. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet finally went off the air in 1966, and between his TV and music earnings, Rick was a rich young man, because his wise father had invested his earnings in trust funds. He started playing country music, which alienated many of his fans from his rock 'n' roll days. In 1972 he performed at a Madison Square Garden "oldies" show, and he showed up with long hair and singing his new songs, and his old fans were understandably disappointed, and he wrote "Garden Party" describing that event, and it became a big hit! In 1963 Rick had married Kris Harmon (daughter of football star Tom Harmon, and brother of Tom Harmon). They had a daughter, Tracy in 1963, twin sons Gunnar and Matthew in 1967, and son Sam in 1974. Kris and and Rick both had major drug problems, and that contributed to a very rocky marriage, and they divorced in 1981. In 1985 Rick was killed in a plane crash. He was just 45. In 1990, his sons Gunnar and Matthew formed the band Nelson, and had a number one record, something both Rick and Ozzie had done before them! Rick Nelson was one of the first teen idols, but perhaps he had too much too soon, for he never realized the great potential of his huge early success in TV, movies, and in pop music, and he was plagued by personal demons throughout his brief life!
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