Eric "Ricky" Hilliard Nelson
"I waited, and I'm sure Elvis did too, for each Ricky Nelson record... like we would a Chuck Berry record or a Fats Domino record, to see what was going on. I used to say to some of the guys that Ricky Nelson learned to sing on million selling records." - Roy Orbison
Born to perhaps America's most famous parents, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Ricky was a star from the very first episode of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. From his first appearance, the wisecracking kid brother, Ricky, was the show's most popular character with his trademark line, "I don't mess around, boy." As television's first and longest running situation comedy evolved, the show's plots, written by Ozzie, revolved around Rick's real life adventures, including girls, sports, and rock-n-roll.
One of the fun things about their show is that they used the exterior of their own home in Hollywood, for the exterior of their house for the show. Even odder, the sets were built to replicate their own home.
Obviously the layout of the exterior of the house has changed over the years, but if Ozzie were alive today, no doubt he'd pick up his mail, right here.
Back in 1995, the house was being renovated and painted. I saw the front door open, and decided to have a peek. God, I wish I had a camera. I had free reign of the house, which is why I know the sets are based on the real layout of the place. I climbed the stairs to Ozzie's room, and a painter told me the story about the apparition he experienced in the bedroom. After hearing footsteps for weeks, he was on a ladder painting the ceiling, when he saw a faint cloud standing in the room beside the ladder. All her could really make out was a foot, when it faded away.
Back to Rick: Plagued with psychological problems (some close to the family preferred the term
"bat shit crazy"), drugs and alcohol addiction, Kris spent most of
Rick's dwindling fortune on houses, cars, and lavish furnishings. Once Rick initiated divorce proceedings, Kris spent the next ten years in a vindictive, financially draining divorce whose sole purpose was to make
Rick's life a living hell. Consequently, Rick spent 200-300 days a year on the road performing.
Useless fact of the day: Officer Jim Reed of Adam-12 took this picture (actor Kent McCord and Rick were good friends).
his room being this one.
Their show was at PJ's (co-owned by his former guitarist Pat Upton) which was eventually turned into a pizza joint.
Rick entered the building through this door.
To close the show, they sang Buddy Holly's Rave On, and Rick's last words onstage were, "Rave on for me!" He left the building and returned to his hotel. You can see photographs of Rick's last show, here.
The next morning after grabbing snacks at the local grocery store, the band left for a New Year's Eve show at the Park Suite in Dallas, Texas.
They boarded the plane at the Guntersville airport,
which is the last place Rick Nelson touched land, alive.
Four hours into the flight, the pilot radioed Fort Worth, "I think I'd like to turn around, uh, head for Texarkana here. I've got a little problem." Minutes later the pilot radioed again "Smoke in the cockpit. Have smoke in the cockpit..." at 5:14 p.m. the plane disappeared from radar. The DC-3, previously owned by notorious widow-maker, Jerry Lee Lewis, plunged to the ground, severing power lines and slamming into a tree, losing a wing.
Witnesses described, "It was on fire when it came over me... Smoke was just
belching out of the right side." As the two pilots scrambled from the cockpit windows, flames as high as 70 feet leapt from the wreckage,
which burned for hours, well into the night.
The bodies were found huddled near the cockpit door.
The next morning Rick's son Matthew (one-half of the "rock" group Nelson) was driving home, happily singing along to Garden Party when the radio announcer came on afterward and said, "That was a tribute to Rick Nelson, who died today in a plane crash." Matthew began screaming hysterically. Ironically both Matthew and twin, Gunnar, were supposed to have accompanied their Dad on the plane, but Rick changed his mind just days before his departure. Unfortunately Harriet Nelson was also informed of her son's death from a newscast that afternoon.
Death Hag Valerie Jung Gilbert sends
this: The back part of the plane is kept at the "Williams house". While we went to find the crash site, the lady who gave tours of the Williams house by appointment,
wasn't answering the phone. We tried the police station (it was closed), we tried city hall, ok it was Saturday so not as surprised to find that closed. Went next door to the barbecue place,
(that's where all the police are) and a lady inside gave us directions. Of course the whole restaurant was staring at us. Anyway, with her directions and pictures we loaded on my phone we came up with this spot. Nothing there to mark it, just the top of a telephone pole missing. Cords are...N
33░ 29.810 W 094░ 36.345. Now while I did bring my Death Hag sticker, it was already adhered to my cd case, so I brought the whole cover.
For those who cannot pay their respects to Ricky at Forest Lawn, Room 106 of the Guntersville Holiday Inn, which has become a hallowed shrine along rock-n-roll's sacred trail of the dearly departed. It's where one-time teen idol Ricky Nelson spent the last two days of his life before his untimely death on December 31, 1985. A permanent wall shrine entitled "The Last Two Days" has been maintained in the hotel lobby, complete with photos, mementoes, and memorabilia of Nelson's last performances.
And most sacred of all, Room 106 has been christened the Rick Nelson Room and is available for viewing.
We are deeply indebted to my pal Dusty Hubbard for those great pictures of the airport, club and hotel. Thanks Dusty!
On August 22, 1985 just 4 months before his
death, Rick made out his will,
mincing very few words with regard to his ex wife. "I hereby declare
that I am not married at this time and was divorced from Kristin Nelson in 1982
and specifically and intentionally fail to provide for her herein."
Apparently at one point it came about that a person named Eric Crewe may have
been Rick's son. A paternity test was given, and it was proven with 99.6%
accuracy that Eric was indeed Rick's son, from a one night stand with a woman in
Great Gorge, NJ. Insert obvious joke and penis here. In Rick's will,
he makes specific mention that "I dispute the
paternity of said minor child." You can get a copy of Rick's will here.
Trivia: According to my pal Chris Epting in his book Elvis Presley Passed here, Rick used to play touch football with Elvis Presley, and sometimes Pat Boone and Max Baer Jr., in this park.
Thank you SS, Janet Brandis, Harry and Dusty Hubbard.