Rick Nelson, 45, the actor who grew up in front of millions of television viewers on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” and spent most of his career as a singer, was killed New Year’s Eve in a plane crash near DeKalb, Texas.
Seven of the nine people aboard the private DC-3, including Nelson’s fiancée Helen Blair and members of Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band, were killed on a flight between Guttersville, Ala. and Dallas’ Love Field.
Eric Hilliard Nelson was born May 8, 1940 in Teaneck, N.J. His parents were bandleader Ozzie Nelson and singer the former Harriet Hilliard, who introduced a show on radio in 1944. At first, child actors portrayed Ricky and his brother David, four years older, but the two kids began playing themselves on the show in 1949.
The family moved to television on ABC-TV in 1952, when Ricky was 12. The family situation comedy was enormously popular and ran for 14 years, during which time the boys grew up, married and brought their wives onto the show. While still a student at Hollywood High School, Ricky Nelson also became a big singing star and teen heartthrob. His hits included “A Teenager’s Romance,” “Poor Little Fool,” “Travelin’ Man” and “Hello Mary Lou.” His career hit a slump after the TV show ended in 1966, but he rebounded in 1972 with the hit “Garden Party.”
Excerpted from Variety, January 8, 1986.