Name change and s career[ edit ] On May 8, his 21st birthday , he officially modified his recording name from "Ricky Nelson" to "Rick Nelson". His childhood nickname proved hard to shake, especially among the generation who had watched him grow up on "Ozzie and Harriet". Even in the s, when Nelson realized his dream of meeting Carl Perkins , Perkins noted that he and "Ricky" were the last of the "rockabilly breed.
After some early successes with the label, most notably 's "For You" 6 , Nelson's chart career came to a dramatic halt in the wake of Beatlemania and The British Invasion. In the mids, Nelson began to move towards country music , becoming a pioneer in the country-rock genre. He was one of the early influences of the so-called " California Sound " which would include singers like Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt and bands such as Eagles.
However, Nelson may have felt that the reason was because he was playing new songs instead of just his old hits. He returned to the stage and played his "oldies" and the audience responded with applause, according to Deborah Nader, President of Richard Nader Entertainment. He wanted to record an album featuring original material, but the single was released before the album because Nelson had not completed the entire Garden Party album yet.
The second single released from the album was "Palace Guard" which peaked at Nelson was with MCA at the time, and his comeback was short-lived. Nelson's band soon resigned, and MCA wanted Nelson to have a producer on his next album.
Nelson still played nightclubs and bars, but he soon advanced to higher-paying venues because of the success of Garden Party. In MCA was at odds as to what to do with the former teen idol.
Albums like Windfall failed to have an impact. Nelson became an attraction at theme parks like Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland. He also started appearing in minor roles on television shows. Nelson tried to score another hit but did not have any luck with songs like "Rock and Roll Lady. Personal life[ edit ] In , when Nelson was 17, he met and fell in love with Marianne Gaba , who played the role of Ricky's girlfriend in three episodes of Ozzie and Harriet.
Collins appeared in an Ozzie and Harriet episode as Ricky's girlfriend and sang "Just Because" with him in the musical finale. She had certain expectations for Ricky's personal life as well as his career. At the age of 45, Nelson said the only girl he ever really loved was involved with him for two years in the late s. Kris was pregnant,  and Rick later described the union as a " shotgun wedding ". By , following the birth of their last child, the marriage had deteriorated and a very public, controversial divorce involving both families was covered in the press for several years.
In October , Kris filed for divorce and asked for alimony, custody of their four children, and a portion of community property. The couple temporarily resolved their differences, but Kris retained her attorney to pursue a permanent break. Kris became an alcoholic and left the children in the care of household help. She was the only woman he dated after his divorce. Her name was never mentioned at Nelson's funeral.
Nelson did not provide for Blair in his will. He put the "y" back on his name and became "Ricky" again. He sang the songs for which he was famous and released a greatest hits album, Ricky Nelson: His comeback was cut short when, while on the tour circuit, his plane crashed on New Year's Eve.
Death[ edit ] Nelson dreaded flying but refused to travel by bus. The plane had been plagued by a history of mechanical problems. On December 26, , Nelson and the band left for a three-stop tour of the southern United States.
CST on December 31, , hitting trees on its way down. Seven of the nine occupants were killed: On January 6, , mourners entered the Church of the Hills for funeral services while fans gathered outside. Kris Nelson threatened to sue the Nelson clan for her former husband's life insurance money and tried to wrest control of his estate from David Nelson, its administrator. Her bid was rejected by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. Nelson bequeathed his entire estate to his children and did not provide for Kris Nelson.
Only days after the funeral, rumors and newspaper reports suggested cocaine freebasing was one of several possible causes for the plane crash. According to witnesses, the plane appeared to be on fire before it crash-landed.
However, Jim Burnett, then-chairman of the NTSB, said that even though the plane was filled with smoke, it landed and came to a stop before it was swallowed by flames.
According to co-pilot Ferguson, the cabin heater was acting up after the plane took off. Ferguson continued that Rank kept going to the back of the plane to see if he could get the heater to function correctly and that Rank told Ferguson several times to turn the heater back on.
He continued, "I was getting more nervous. I didn't think we should be messing with that heater en route. They shouted to the passenger cabin, but there was no response. Ferguson and Rank backed away from the plane, fearing explosion. Ferguson stated that Rank told him, "Don't tell anyone about the heater, don't tell anyone about the heater. Rank said that he was checking on the passengers when he noticed smoke in the middle of the cabin, where Rick Nelson and Helen Blair were sitting.
Even though he never mentioned a problematic heater, Rank stated that he went to the rear of the plane to check the heater, saw no smoke, and found the heater was cool to the touch. After activating an automatic fire extinguisher and opening the cabin's fresh air inlets, Rank said that he returned to the cockpit where Ferguson was already asking traffic controllers for directions to the nearest airfield. The board said that while these steps might not have prevented the crash, "they would have enhanced the potential for survival of the passengers.
Glover stated, "All the bodies are there at the front of the plane. Apparently, they were trying to escape the fire. Some reports said the passengers were killed when the aircraft struck obstacles during the forced landing. The ignition and fuel sources of the fire could not be determined. After the fire, the access panel to the heater compartment was found unlatched. The theory is supported by records that showed that DC-3s in general, and this aircraft in particular, had a history of problems with the cabin heaters.
Tributes, honors, and recognition[ edit ] Nelson publicity photo, Nelson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in , and to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Bob Dylan wrote about Nelson's influence on his music in his memoir, Chronicles, Vol. Factory released official editions of the show on DVD. The first installment is entitled "Remembering Rick Nelson: