Eric Hilliard "Ricky" Nelson (born 8 May 1940), appeared on his parents' radio show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, from the age of four. The show transferred to TV in the early 1950s. Performances in the TV show led to a consistent string of hit records beginning with I'm Walkin' in 1957.
Ricky enlisted the aid of some of the best rock guitarists of the time, including James Burton and Joe Maphis, and some of the best rock and rockabilly song writers, including Johnny and Dorsey Burnette and Gene Pitney. The result was a cut above the typical "teen idol" music of the late fifties and led to Ricky becoming the second top selling rock star of the era (after Elvis).
By the time he was 21, Ricky (now calling himself "Rick") had developed a more mature, country-rock style. His biggest hit, Hello, Mary Lou (written by Gene Pitney and with James Burton on guitar) was typical of this period.
Rick married Kristin Harmon in 1961. They had four children but divorced in 1981.
Rick's run of about thirty Top 40 hits ended with the "British invasion" in the early sixties, a change of recording companies (from Liberty to Decca) in 1963 and the end of the Ozzie and Harriet TV series in 1966. Ricky continued to produce good quality recordings, with an increasingly country style, and to be a popular club and concert performer. His band, the Stone Canyon Band, was a pioneers country-rock group.
Rick had another minor hit with Bob Dylan's She Belongs to Me in 1970 and major hit with Garden Party in 1974. (According to members of his band, the legend that Ricky wrote the song as a result of being booed for performing Honky Tonk Woman at a concert in Madison Square Garden is not strictly true. The booing, which did inspire the song, resulted from a drunken brawl in the audience not Rick's performance.).
On 31 January 1985, a small plane on which Rick was flying bust into flames after making an emergency landing on a highway. Rick, his fiancÃ©e (Helen Blair) and five members of the Stone Canyon Band were all killed.
Rick's twin sones, Mathew and Gunnar, performing as Nelson, had a number one hit with (Can't Live without) Your Love and Affection) in 1990.