One of the pioneers of West Coast country-rock, singer Rick Nelson was also perhaps the ultimate show-biz teen stars. The son of pop bandleader and radio star Ozzie Nelson, Ricky Nelson was cast basically as himself in the long-running Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet show, which moved from radio to TV in 1952, making the baby-faced Rick Nelson a teen star of the early television era. In the late '50s, producers decided to capitalize on Nelson's fame and establish him as a music idol, recording pop ballads and watered-down rock'n'roll.
Throughout his career, Nelson had to struggle for independence and to be taken seriously as an artist, outside of the machinations of his controlling father, and the perception that he was "just" the son of an established show-biz star, with opportunities that were given to him, rather than earned. Nevertheless, he made his own way, first moving to beef up his rock'n'roll cred by hiring his own band rather than use studio musicians, and then by shifting towards a country-based sound in the 1960s. Nelson's first band included hotshot guitarist James Burton, who later anchored Elvis Presley's Vegas act, and was a key member of Emmylou Harris' fabled Hot Band. Although his fame gradually slipped away, Nelson is widely credited as a forerunner of the California-based country-rock scene of the 1970s, and had chart success that included his 1972 Top Ten hit, "Garden Party," which also crossed over into the Country charts. Nelson died in a plane crash while on tour in 1985... Here's a quick look at his work.
Rick Nelson "Legacy" (Capitol, 2000)
This 4-CD set covers a wide swath of Nelson's career, bridging the early teenpop and rockabilly recordings, his Decca albums from the '60s and the country-rock records of the late '60s and early '70s. A great overview of his work... Highly recommended!
Rick Nelson "Bright Lights & Country Music/Country Fever" (Ace, 2004)
Rick Nelson "Garden Party/Windfall" (Beat Goes On, 1999)
Rick Nelson "Another Side Of Rick/Perspective" (Ace, 2004)
Rick Nelson "Best Always/Love And Kisses" (Ace, 2004)
Rick Nelson "Lonesome Town -- The Complete Recorded Releases: 1957-1959" (2010)
A 3-CD set...
Rick Nelson "Stay Young: The Epic Recordings" (Sony, 1993)
A fine collection drawn from work Nelson recorded for Epic Records in the late 1970s, much of it which went unreleased at the time. This 2-CD set includes material from Intakes, Back To Vienna, and Memphis Sessions.
Rick Nelson "In Concert - The Troubadour, 1969" (Ace, 2011)
Live recordings from the country-rock prime of former teen star Ricky Nelson, with backing by the first lineup of his fabled Stone Canyon Band... This is a greatly expanded, 2-CD version of Nelson's 1970 live album, with nearly four times as much material. The Troubadour concert was something of a creative comeback for Nelson, who had "gone country" without much success a few years earlier, and whose career was in freefall as he explored the new, psychedelic-tinged vistas of the nascent Southern California country-rock scene. In his new band were bassist Randy Meisner (soon to become a founding member of The Eagles and Buck Owens' longtime steel guitar player Tom Brumley... Some real heavy-hitters for a highly-regarded performance!
Rick Nelson "Rick Sings Nelson/Rudy The Fifth" (Beat Goes On, 2002)
Ricky Nelson "Ricky" (Imperial, 1957)
Ricky Nelson "Ricky Nelson" (Imperial, 1958)
Ricky Nelson "Ricky Sings Again" (Imperial, 1959)
Ricky Nelson "Songs By Ricky" (Imperial, 1959)
Ricky Nelson "More Songs By Ricky" (Imperial, 1960)
Ricky Nelson "Rick Is 21" (Imperial, 1961)
Ricky Nelson "Album Seven By Rick" (Imperial, 1961)
Rick Nelson "Best Sellers By Rick Nelson" (Imperial, 1962)
Ricky Nelson "It's Up To You" (1962)
Ricky Nelson "Million Sellers" (Imperial, 1962)
Rick Nelson "For Your Sweet Love" (1963)
Rick Nelson "Rick Nelson Sings For You" (1964)
Rick Nelson "The Very Thought Of You" (1964)
Rick Nelson "Spotlight On Rick" (1965)
Rick Nelson "Best Always" (1965)
Rick Nelson "Love And Kisses" (1965)
Rick Nelson "Bright Lights And Country Music" (Decca, 1966)
Rick Nelson "Country Fever" (Decca, 1966)
Rick Nelson "On The Flip Side" (Decca, 1966)
Rick Nelson "Another Side Of Rick Nelson" (1967)
Rick Nelson "Perspective" (1968)
Rick Nelson "In Concert" (1970)
This performance at the the Troubadour, a famous Los Angeles showcase nightclub, was something of a career comeback for Nelson. Things had been drifting for a while, and this live album reinvigorated both him and his fans. Part of the success was his new group, The Stone Canyon Band, which helped Nelson solidify his country and country-rock leanings of the late-'60s: among the talent was bassist/singer Randy Miesner (later a member of the Eagles) and steel guitarist Tom Brumley, a veteran of the Buck Owens band. The twang took some fans by surprise (mostly folks who hadn't been paying attention to his low-selling Decca LPs) but it also helped put him back n the radar. This material has also been re-released with extra material on an expanded-length reissue that's definitely worth tracking down, especially if you know this album and want to hear more of the same material.
Rick Nelson "Rick Sings Nelson" (1970)
Rick Nelson "Rudy The Fifth" (1971)
Rick Nelson "Garden Party" (MCA, 1972)
Rick Nelson "Windfall" (MCA, 1974)
Rick Nelson "Intakes" (Epic, 1977) (LP)
Rick Nelson "Playing To Win" (Capitol, 1981)
Rick Nelson "The Memphis Sessions" (1986) (LP)
This set, taken from the leftovers from his unreleased Epic sessions was, of course, released posthumously after Nelson's tragic airplane accident...
Hick Music Index