I’M Walkin’ 45 by Ricky Nelson

January 22, 2011

Rick Nelson covered Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin'” two months after its release. That was typical during the fifties as white artists would issue pop versions of the rhythm and blues hits of the day. Many times this prevented the R&B versions from becoming hits on the pop charts. Once in awhile the originals would sneak through.

Ricky Nelson sang “I’m Walkin'” on the Ozzie & Harriet show and then released it as the B side of his first record during May of 1957. “A Teenager’s Romance” would reach number two on the pop charts and “I’m Walkin'” would reach number four, which was exactly the same position Fats Domino’s version reached.

Nelson’s early singles had a rockabilly feel and this two sided hit was no exception. He also had the advantage of presenting his material on one of the most popular television shows of the era.

“I’m Walkin'” remains an excellent outing from one of the original teenage idols.

Poor Little Fool 45 by Ricky Nelson

October 31, 2010

“Poor Little Fool” was released during mid-1958 and became Ricky Nelson’s first number one hit spending two weeks on top of The United States music world. He had reached number two, twice and three, once but had never made it to the top of the mountain.

It was close to a traditional ballad with a soft vocal that just flowed freely past the senses. While he would issue some up-tempo hits in the future, this song would lead him in a pop direction with good commercial results.

Also of note, it was the first song to reach the top of BILLBOARD MAGAZINE’S newly named Hot 100 chart.

Be Bop Baby/Have I Told You Lately That I Love You 45 by Ricky Nelson

October 27, 2010

Ricky Nelson released the double sided hit “Be Bop Baby/Have I Told You That I Love You” during 1957. His first two hits had been issued on the Verve Label but now he switched to Imperial which would become his home for 38 of his 54 chart singles.

This was back in the era when one single could produce two hits and so it was here. “Be Bop Baby” reached number three and “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” checked in at number 29.

The songs were a good match. “Be Bop Baby” looked back to his rockabilly roots with a stacatto beat while “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” was a romantic ballad originally made popular by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters in 1950.

This is Rick Nelson at the beginning of his career and while the songs would not rank with his very best work, they were still very good.

Fools Rush In 45 by Ricky Nelson

October 10, 2010

“Fools Rush In” is an old Johnny Mercer/Rube Brown song that Glen Miller took to number three on the charts way back in 1940. It would reach The United States singles charts three more time during the pop era. Brook Benton would record a smooth version which reached number 24 during 1960. Etta James would release it as a flip side to a single during 1962 and it would sneak onto the charts at number 87.

Rick Nelson would record the song a year later. It would reach number twelve on the American charts during 1963. He did not know it at the time but his commercial career was nearing its end. “Fools Rush In” was his 43rd of 54 titles to reach the American charts.

He gave a traditional performance of the song that falls into the pop category. It was effective but not his best vocal and certainly did not have the smoothness of Benton’s version. He would only have two more songs make the American top twenty.

Travelin’ Man/Hello Mary Lou 45 by Ricky Nelson

August 25, 2010


“Travelin’ Man/Hello Mary Lou” is one of the great two sided single releases in music history. “Travelin Man” topped the American charts for two weeks during February of of 1961. A month later “Hello Mary Lou” rose to number nine.

“Travelin’ Man” is a classic song of the loves of a man who travels the globe. A short film was made to promote the song and is considered by many to be the first music video.

Gene Pitney composed “Hello May Lou” and why he did not keep it for himself is beyone me. It was was released as the A side in England and reached number two on their charts. It would quickly become a huge European hit. James Burton guitar work is excellent throughout the song.

I can’t help but think if Ricky Nelson could have released the songs separately in The United States he may have had two number one hits. Still its place as one of the better two sided hits in music history is not a bad legacy.

It’s Up To You 45 by Rick Nelson

March 29, 2010

Eric Hillard Nelson was a television and rock star. He starred in his parents show, OZZIE & HARRIET, from 1949-1966.

The TV show gave him a great advantage in his music career. When he started producing records he would sing a song at the end of each show. No other early rock star had that advantage. It would enable him to become one of the original fifties teen idols.

From 1957 through 1973 he would place 54 songs of THE BILLBOARD MAGAZINE top 100 charts. In addition his albums would sell in the millions of copies. He would be inducted into THe Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame two years afer his death in 1987.

“It’s Up To You” reached number six on the National singles charts during December of 1962. It would find Nelson at the crossroads of his career as he was changing from a fifties rocker to a more pop oriented style. It can be sonsidered a mid-tempo ballad and Nelson delivers a smooth vocal.

He would contine to produce hits for another decade including some of the first to combine rock and country.

Greatest Love Songs by Ricky Nelson

July 26, 2009

Ricky Nelson was probably the first rock and roll star created exclusively by television. Joining the radio cast of Ozzie and Harriet in 1949, he would go on to appear on the television version from 1952-1966. At age seventeen, in 1957, he scored a national number four hit with the Fats Domino song “I’m Walkin’.” The Nelson family was quick to capitalize on this success and for years would end each show with Ricky performing one of his songs. This television exposure would propel Ricky Nelson to thirty top forty hits in a five year period.

The British Invasion and the cancellation of Ozzie and Harriet saw the end of commercial success for Ricky Nelson. In the early 1970s , Nelson re-invented himself as a country rock artist and released the critically acclaimed Garden Party album. While commercial success would elude him, he kept releasing albums and touring until his death in 1985 in a plane crash.

Greatest Love Songs is a 22-song CD that covers the famous and some not so famous love songs from Ricky Nelson’s career.

Ricky Nelson remains a smooth and pleasurable listening experience. However, this disc by virtue of its theme has a couple of things working against it. First, because of the fact that it features just love songs, it eliminates his outstanding early Rockabilly catalogue of up-tempo recordings. Second, it is difficult to find 22 excellent love songs by Ricky Nelson; to fill out the album, some of his later and weaker material had to be included.

When Greatest Love Songs sticks to early career songs by Nelson it shines: “Poor Little Fool,” “Lonesome Town,” “Hello Mary Lou,” “Young Emotions,” “I Wanna Be Loved,” “It’s Up To You,” and “Teenage Idol” are all Ricky Nelson at his best and nearly half a century later provide a good listening experience. Nelson had a decent voice that could carry a ballad well.

The problems begin during the second half of the album. Covers of such songs as “Dream Lover,” “Unchained Melody,” “It’s All In The Game,” “Dream Lover,” and “True Love Ways” all pale in comparison to the original versions. Nelson has difficulty adapting his particular vocal style to these unique songs. There is nothing truly offensive here but nothing outstanding either.

All in all, Greatest Love Songs is a good introduction to the legacy of Rickey Nelson. No, it does not gather all of his best work into one place, but it does provide an excellent sampling of a section of his career.

Ricky Nelson remains a somewhat forgotten figure in 1950s rock history, despite being elected to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1957 and selling more records from 1957-1962 than anyone except Elvis. Greatest Love Songs can be a good jumping off place to explore the catalogue and legacy of Ricky Nelson, but don’t just stop here – there is a lot more great Ricky Nelson music out there waiting to be explored.

Garden Party by Rick Nelson

March 19, 2009

In the late 1950s and early 1960s there was Elvis Presley and then there was Ricky Nelson. Elvis was a musical and cultural phenomenon but Ricky Nelson would be a solid number two and sell millions of albums and chart thirty top forty singles during the years 1957-1962.

He rose to prominence as an actor on his parents’ TV show, Ozzie and Harriet. As Ricky aged he was given a few minutes at the end of each show to sing a song. This would propel him to the status of teen idol; a term Life magazine coined to describe him in an article.

His career would come to an abrupt halt with the advent of the British invasion. Musical tastes in the United States were quickly changing and he would be regulated to the oldies bin. He would drop the Y from his name and continue to produce albums but with little success. The low point of his career came when he was booed off the stage at a Madison Square Garden oldies show for singing a few new songs.

Rick Nelson began his comeback in 1969 with the brilliant live album, In Concert At The Troubadour, 1969. Nelson had moved in a country/rock direction and surrounded himself with a first rate backing group, The Stone Canyon Band. Ricky Sings Nelson (1970) and Rudy The Fifth (1971) would follow and re-establish Nelson as a commercially successful and creative artist. his comeback would be complete with the release of Garden Party in 1972 which would reach number 32 on the national charts.

Garden Party was a brilliant foray into the country/rock idiom centered around the autobiographical title song. He would take his rejection at The Madison Square Garden concert and turn it into a personal song of redemption and peace. His smooth delivery would sell this song of him accepting his place in the musical world. “Garden Party” would become a huge single hit and reach number six on the national charts. The only non-country song was a rock ‘n’ roll cover of Chuck Berry’s “I’m Talking About You.” Nelson cut his musical teeth on songs such as this and does not disappoint here as he delivers a wonderful vocal.

Garden Party contained a large number of superior tracks. “So Long Mama” is a bouncy country tune with an almost boogie beat. “I Wanna Be With You,” written by former band member Randy Meisner, could have been an Eagles song. It finds Nelson in a group setting and features superb harmonies. “Are You Really Real” is a sparse ballad that is enhanced by a subtle use of flutes on the breaks. “A Flower Opens Gently” contains some of the most sophisticated lyrics that Rick Nelson would produce. It is a song with biting commentary. He pays tribute to our dead with the refrain; “goodbye, so long.”

Garden Party would find a mature Rick Nelson brimming with confidence. He would write six of the album’s ten songs and they would range from very good to excellent. The equally brilliant album, Windfall, would follow but after that Rick Nelson would figuratively play out the string until his death, December 31, 1985, in a plane crash. In many ways Garden Party stands as the last testament to an underrated artist.