Top 20 Ricky Nelson Hits



Born in Teaneck, New Jersey, in 1940, Eric Hilliard Nelson spent virtually his entire life in show business. One of two sons born to bandleader Ozzie Nelson and vocalist Harriet Hilliard, Ricky and his older brother, David, appeared on their parents radio show in 1949. Later, the show, “The Adventures of Ozzie And Harriet” moved to television and ran for fourteen seasons from 1952-1966.

It was while he was on TV that Ricky made his rock and roll debut by singing the Fats Domino classic, “I’m Walking” in 1957. Ozzie managed Ricky’s early career and got him a five year deal with Imperial Records, after clashing with his first label, Verve, over royalties.

Singing on the Nelson’s TV show became such a success, Ricky would perform songs at the end of many of the show’s episodes. It was a great springboard for one of rock’s earliest teen idols.

On his birthday in 1961, he officially changed his recording name from Ricky to Rick Nelson.

When his music career was still going strong, Rick also focused on his acting career and appeared in such movies as “Rio Bravo” with John Wayne and Dean Martin in 1959, “Wackiest Ship In The Army” with Jack Lemmon in 1960 and “Love And Kisses” in 1965.

In 1963, Rick married actor Mark Harmon’s sister, Kristin. They divorced in 1982.

By 1964, Rick’s recording career had all but ceased to exist, until 1972, when “Garden Party” went Top 10 for him. Here’s a look at Ricky Nelson’s twenty biggest hits, according to Billboard’s weekly Top 40 charts.

1. Poor Little Fool – 1958 – although Rick’s first #1 single, he reportedly loathed the song so much, he refused to perform it on his family’s television show.

2. Travelin’ Man – 1961 – his only other #1 single, the flip side “Hello Mary Lou” also went Top 10.

3. Stood Up – 1957

4. A Teenager’s Romance – 1957

5. Be Bop Baby – the flip side, “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?” was also a hit for Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters in 1950.

6. I’m Walking – 1957 – Rick’s first hit single was also a hit for pkv domino qq who went to #4 on the weekly charts also in 1957. This is also the B-Side of “A Teenager’s Romance.” (see #4)

7. Believe What You Say – 1958 – the flip side “My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It” also went Top 20.

8. Young World – 1962 – written by Jerry Fuller.

9. Teen Age Idol – 1962

10. Never Be Anyone Else But You – 1959

11. Garden Party – 1972 – written after Rick was booed off the stage at Madison Square Garden, while trying to perform newer songs. Although, some reports say the booing was in relation to police trying to remove some drunken patrons from the balcony.

12. It’s Up To You – 1963

13. For You – 1964 – Ray Noble went to #1 in 1934 with this song.

14. Lonesome Town – 1958

15. Hello Mary Lou – 1961 – written by Gene Pitney, this was also the B side to “Travelin’ Man.” (see #2)

16. It’s Late – 1959 – The flip side of “Never Be Anyone Else But You.” (see #10)

17. Just A Little Too Much – 1959

18. Sweeter Than You – 1959 – the B-side to “Just A Little Too Much” also went Top 10.

19. I Got A Feeling – 1958 – the flip side of “Lonesome Town.” (see #14)

20. A Wonder Like You – 1961 – the first single released as “Rick” Nelson.

Ricky Nelson dreaded air travel and regularly toured by bus. However, in 1985, he purchased a 14 seat DC-3 for a series of concerts. On New Year’s Eve, after departing Gunterville, Alabama for Dallas, the plane crashed in DeKalb, Texas, northeast of Dallas. With the exception of the two pilots, seven people perished on that flight, including Nelson, his fiancĂ©e (Helen Blair) and members of his band.


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