Eric Hilliard "Ricky" Nelson, later known as Rick Nelson (May 8, 1940 – December 31, 1985), was an American singer, musician and actor. With more than 50 Hot 100 hits, Nelson was second only to Elvis Presley as the most popular rock and roll artist of the late 1950s.
Nelson came from a showbusiness family. His father, Ozzie Nelson, formed a popular dance band in the 1930s. The band featured singer Harriet Hilliard, who became Ozzie Nelson's wife in 1935. The couple had their own US radio show, The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet, which transferred to television in 1952. Ricky and his brother David appeared in several episodes of the show.
By 1957 Nelson had embarked on his own recording career, with the million-selling, double-sided "I'm Walking"/"A Teenager's Romance". A third hit soon followed with "You're My One And Only Love". A switch from Verve Records to Imperial Records saw Nelson enjoy further success with the rockabilly "Be-Bop Baby". In 1958 Nelson formed a full-time group for live work and recordings, which included James Burton (guitar), James Kirkland (later replaced by Joe Osborn) (bass), Gene Garf (piano) and Richie Frost (drums). Early that year Nelson enjoyed his first transatlantic hit with "Stood Up" and, in August, registered the first Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper with Sharon Sheeley's "Poor Little Fool".
His early broadcasting experience was put to useful effect when he starred in the Howard Hawks movie western Rio Bravo (1959), alongside John Wayne and Dean Martin.
Nelson's singles continued to chart regularly and it says much for the quality of his work that the b-sides were often as well known as the a-sides. Songs such as "Believe What You Say", "Never Be Anyone Else But You", "It's Late", "Sweeter Than You", "Just A Little Too Much" and "I Wanna Be Loved" proved that Nelson was equally adept at singing ballads and up-tempo material.