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Author Topic: Rick Nelson, a voice possessing effortlessness and tossed-off coolness  (Read 8022 times)
jeremylr
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« on: January 02, 2013, 05:20:23 PM »

Guitarfool2002 suggested I create this topic, so here goes. I have published several Rick Nelson-related interviews, including James Burton, Sam Nelson (Rick's youngest son), 1992's "Teenage Idol, Travelin' Man" author Philip Bashe, and producer-arranger Jimmie Haskell.

Fittingly, after playing a roof-raising rockabilly concert that ended with Buddy Holly's defiant ode to endless rockin', "Rave On", the dashing singer boarded a dilapidated DC-3 aircraft with his band and fiancé. Destination: a New Year's Eve concert in Dallas, Texas. It was never to be.

I have a conversation with Sheree Homer, who wrote "Rock 'N' Roll Pioneer," the first book dedicated to the singer in 20 years. So if you've never heard of Rick Nelson, check out the following and see what you think. We cover his rockabilly and early songwriting efforts in detail.

During the late '50s and early '60s, he was second only to the King of Rock and Roll in terms of record sales and overall popularity, eventually notching 53 singles on Billboard's Top 100 through 1973. Nelson, perhaps unconsciously, helped usher rock and roll into the mainstream in 1957 via the long-running family comedy series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, an era when many uptight parents forbade their children from watching the pulsating, highly sensual gyrations of the more threatening Presley.

https://medium.com/@jeremylr/a-voice-possessing-effortlessness-and-tossed-off-coolness-rick-nelson-remembered-64cd67ee3e4e
A Voice Possessing Effortlessness and Tossed-Off Coolness: Rick Nelson Remembered


« Last Edit: May 01, 2018, 09:07:35 AM by jeremylr » Logged
grillo
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« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2013, 07:55:01 PM »

Man, I love Rick, and my lady really goes for him too! Great articles (says my quick scan) that I really want to take time with. Thanks!
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rn57
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« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2013, 08:13:19 PM »

An old friend of mine, a highly respected recording engineer in Kentucky, once told me that when he was in junior high he and his friends would argue about Ricky vs Elvis - this would have been 1961, when the "Travelin Man/Hello Mary Lou" 45 was on the radio, and Elvis was starting to go on autopilot at the movies. So I wasn't surprised when he said that he and a lot of his friends thought Ricky was, by that point, better than Ol' Swivel-Hips.

The engineer also told me about seeing Rick (as he was by then) perform at the Beverly Hills Supper Club near Cincinnati. This was in April 1977, about a month before the infamous fire at a John Davidson show that destroyed the club and killed over a hundred people.
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meltedwhiskeyinmyhand
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« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2013, 10:15:52 AM »

I ordered the web stream of the 4 Phish New Years shows and they opened with Garden Party on the 31st. It was great!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l58fCLguzQ&feature=youtu.be&a

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cablegeddon
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« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2013, 12:08:38 PM »

When I think of a singer that can carry a song on his own, Ricky Nelson is like definition of that.

Probably one of the three best voices in the history of pop music.
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« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2013, 02:58:36 PM »

Thanks for the links jeremylr! Hope I'll have enough time to read them soon
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« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2013, 04:04:22 PM »

Rick Nelson is one of my top 3 musical acts along with The Beach Boys and Burt Bacharach, and his voice is right up there with Glen Campbell and Elvis for me. I was happy to pick up Rick's Rarities, it was the first I'd known of him singing Bacharach and Randy Newman tunes.
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Lonely Summer
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« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2013, 11:05:21 PM »

Sheree Homer has become a friend of mine in the past year, and so maybe I'm a little biased, but I honestly believe her book on Rick is the best of the lot. She truly loves the man and his music. Rick's music has always been in my life, thanks to mom and dad. I wore out their copy of Rick is 21, grew up buying anything of his I could find. Nice to see others here than appreciate his gift as a singer - I often used to see critics describe him as a bland, colorless singer with limited range.  Huh I think one mark of a great vocalist is that within seconds of their record coming on you can identify them. Even friends of mine with only a passing acquaintance with Rick's music could immediately identify the artist once that voice came on. And he had the best musicians in the biz. Obviously Elvis was paying attention to what Rick was doing, he hired James Burton to lead his band first chance he got. And I have never heard anyone do the things with pedal steel that Tom Brumley did.
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jeremylr
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« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2013, 09:44:02 AM »

https://medium.com/@jeremylr/true-love-ways-a-glimpse-inside-the-tangled-web-of-rick-nelsons-final-album-cff2ad08795c
True Love Ways: A glimpse inside the tangled web of Rick Nelson's final album

I have continued to pursue my interest in Rick Nelson.  I wrote another article examining Rick's final, still-unreleased 1985 album for Curb Records. Hopefully I touched on some topics that might be new to you. Here's part of the introduction...

Quote
Did you know that there is a complete album of unreleased Rick Nelson songs in someone's possession? Indeed, the "You Just Can't Quit" songwriter was working on a new rockabilly “comeback” album for Curb Records at the time of his fateful collision with destiny on December 31, 1985.

For decades Nelson had been uncomfortable performing many of his greatest hits live. His personal mantra of "if memories were all I sang, I'd rather drive a truck" as immortalized in "Garden Party" haunted him, not unlike Pete Townshend's declaration that "I hope I die before I get old" in the anthemic "My Generation."

But his fans never stopped yearning to hear Nelson perform the tunes that made him a household name. When rockabilly experienced an unexpected revival in the early '80s as the Stray Cats landed several huge hits with "Stray Cat Strut" and "(She's) Sexy + 17", Nelson finally realized that his legacy was worth celebrating. Consequently, classic artists such as Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, and Nelson himself began to command better-paying gigs in front of screaming, appreciative fans.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2018, 09:08:22 AM by jeremylr » Logged
Lonely Summer
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« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2013, 01:09:46 PM »

Would be nice if all the legal stuff could be sorted out, and they could get this album released. I think us fans understand that Rick's final, polished vocals were not done for  some songs, and some songs are missing Bobby Neal's guitar breaks. That's fine with me, we've got years and years of studio outtakes of Elvis Presley on the FTD label; Sony has given us the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series. As long as they don't try to pass it off as something it's not, I think a release would be a nice final chapter in his recording career.
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jeremylr
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« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2013, 05:21:37 PM »

Yeah, Rick had so many record-related setbacks in his final years. A 1978 album with Al Kooper was rejected by Epic Records, then the Memphis Sessions was inexplicably rejected by the same label. The Playing To Win 1981 Capitol LP was released but had terrible sales. Then a second record for the label was scuttled. Wish Rick's family would get concerned about his legacy. No major label compilations since the Greatest Love Songs set in 2008 on Capitol. But at least we have the indie collector labels like Real Gone Music & Bear Family. They are probably our only hope in getting the sessions out.
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Lonely Summer
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« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2013, 05:33:57 PM »

Yeah, Rick had so many record-related setbacks in his final years. A 1978 album with Al Kooper was rejected by Epic Records, then the Memphis Sessions was inexplicably rejected by the same label. The Playing To Win 1981 Capitol LP was released but had terrible sales. Then a second record for the label was scuttled. Wish Rick's family would get concerned about his legacy. No major label compilations since the Greatest Love Songs set in 2008 on Capitol. But at least we have the indie collector labels like Real Gone Music & Bear Family. They are probably our only hope in getting the sessions out.
Yeah, Epic were strange. Sent Rick into the studio with Al Kooper, then rejected the results because, in their words, "it sounds like an Al Kooper album"  Roll Eyes Playing to Win sold slightly better than Intakes, but yeah, the major labels just couldn't get it together for Rick. He might've been better off going to an indepedent label - after all, he had his greatest success on Imperial, which was almost a one man operation. I'm not holding my breath on any new stuff coming out. Even Rick's former guitarist, John Beland, is against the final sessions coming out.
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jeremylr
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« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2013, 05:42:03 PM »

I didn't know John Beland felt that way...did he make his remarks in an official interview somewhere?
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Ron
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« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2013, 10:54:13 PM »

It's amazing to me that Ricky Nelson has been so largely forgotten.  Unless you're specifically talking to people about old 50's music you're not likely to hear his name mentioned, and even in that circle it doesnt' get mentioned much.  Guys like Elvis/Buddy/ hell even the Everly Brothers get mentioned more than Rick.  I haven't heard too much of his later stuff, but i'm pretty familiar with all the early hits and grew up listening to them.  "Hello Mary Lou" has a really great sound, probably my favorite of his.  When I was a kid my dad always told me he died in a plane crash freebasing cocaine.  Sucks how bad stories get stuck on these guys, and that becomes part of their legacy. 
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Lonely Summer
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« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2013, 12:36:38 AM »

It's amazing to me that Ricky Nelson has been so largely forgotten.  Unless you're specifically talking to people about old 50's music you're not likely to hear his name mentioned, and even in that circle it doesnt' get mentioned much.  Guys like Elvis/Buddy/ hell even the Everly Brothers get mentioned more than Rick.  I haven't heard too much of his later stuff, but i'm pretty familiar with all the early hits and grew up listening to them.  "Hello Mary Lou" has a really great sound, probably my favorite of his.  When I was a kid my dad always told me he died in a plane crash freebasing cocaine.  Sucks how bad stories get stuck on these guys, and that becomes part of their legacy. 
Yeah, the freebasing thing was discredited decades ago. I think Rick might be more remembered now if he had died really young - not that he was old in 1985, but his glory days were behind him - like Buddy Holly. Every music geek knows who Buddy Holly is, probably knows at least a few of his songs. He's kind of an icon for a time gone by, like James Dean. And Elvis is just inescapable. Elvis is Everywhere! The Everlys seem to me largely forgotten, though - maybe because they dared to outlive most of the other rockers. They got a lot of attention when they reunited in 1983, toured for the rest of the decade, then kind of slipped away. Really a shame, because I'm sure those guys can still sing. They sound great on their 80's album - voices are more mature than when they were teen idols, but that's not a bad thing. Just adds more resonance to their ballads of love gone wrong.
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Ron
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« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2013, 11:28:47 PM »

That's another famous story I always heard from my dad.  He took a date to a club one night in San Francisco and didn't even know anybody was singing or anything... they got a table near a small stage... about 30 people were there, and Phil and Don Everly come out, sit 5 feet from them and sing for an hour and a half.  He said it was amazing but even more amazing that nobody knew they were going to be there, or seemed to really give a sh*t.  This would have been in the early 80's. 

I agree with what you're saying about him living too long.  With Buddy Holly, you have this romantic notion that if he only would have lived... what would he have done?  He would have changed music, right!  I mean who knows how great he would have gotten, if he was that great, that early! 

Instead he's perpetually stuck in the 50's.  We never saw him get old, we never saw him be normal... the 50's is such a strange time in history anyways.  Everything was so weird, it's almost impossible to see the remnants of the 50's in anything that's still around.  If you see a car from the 50's anywhere it's shockingly different than anything modern.  If you look at fashion from the 50's it almost looks alien.  Even most of the videos are in black and white, like we're watching the moon landing again.

A more modern example is John Denver.  Since he lived a little later... and was forgotten... and had several years like Rick where his star had waned, everybody forgets how great the guy was.  If he would have died in 1974 we'd all hold John Denver up as a god like we do Buddy. 


Elvis is different; we did see him get old, but amazingly... he pretty much lived up to the hype.  We saw him do great things like we imagined Buddy would have done.  He lived into the 70's but waited that long to give us "Suspicious Minds"... and "American Trilogy".... and "Kentucky Rain", etc. 

Imagine if Michael Jackson would have passed away in 1985.  Good lord. 

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Lonely Summer
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« Reply #16 on: February 11, 2013, 12:43:08 AM »

That's an amazing story about the Everlys. I saw them 3 times - 198, 87, 89 - and they exceeded my expectations. Great band, and they still sang beautifully. But the venues got smaller each time, once the novelty of them being back together, people forgot about them. The last show I saw was at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle, maybe 1,000 seats there, but they were filled, and the crowd was very enthusiastic. gave them a standing ovation for "All I Have to do is Dream" right in the middle of the show. Was lucky enough to get their autographs as they walked out to the van after the show, but they'd been on tour all summer, they looked tired, and they really scaled back their workload after that.
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Ron
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« Reply #17 on: February 11, 2013, 09:31:15 AM »

Yeah he used to talk about it everytime they came on the radio, he couldn't understand why they were playing such a small place, I guess they had a few rough years for awhile! 
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jeremylr
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« Reply #18 on: February 11, 2013, 11:43:18 AM »

I've always wanted to see The Everly Brothers live. Was it roughly eight years ago when they opened for Simon & Garfunkel on a tour? With all the great word-of-mouth & publicity, I wish they would have cut a new studio album and rode all the buzz. Maybe they still can't work together. Sorry for getting further & further away from Rick Nelson. We'll get back on track eventually.


PS...Has anyone heard a long-unreleased Everly Brothers song called "Even If I Hold It In My Hand (Hard Luck Story)?" Written by Don about suicide and recorded on January 6, 1967...Glen Campbell plays a killer 30-second solo. Fans finally heard it in 1993.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b8DoGqtRGU
« Last Edit: February 11, 2013, 12:51:22 PM by jeremylr » Logged
Lonely Summer
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« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2013, 12:49:51 PM »

Hadn't heard that one before - great song, but not suprising, the Evs cut a lot of good stuff after the spotlight left them.
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mtaber
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« Reply #20 on: August 18, 2014, 06:04:29 PM »

Just got Rick's two albums on CD, Rick Sings Nelson and Rudy the 5Th.  Hadn't heard them in 20 years! Both are great, he had such great bands, too.  Saw him twice in concert in the early '80's, remember the last one where he played only a 45 minute set.  Set was great but he must have had a hot date, people were pissed that he did such a short show. 
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Jim Rockford
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« Reply #21 on: August 18, 2014, 07:29:50 PM »

Love Rick. I got most of his music. He made a lot of great underrated songs.
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Lowbacca
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« Reply #22 on: August 19, 2014, 02:32:43 AM »

Had a compilation of his 'biggest hits' on my MP3 player this whole summer. Cool Great stuff. I never got deeper into his catalogue, though.
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Lonely Summer
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« Reply #23 on: August 19, 2014, 10:20:46 AM »

Had a compilation of his 'biggest hits' on my MP3 player this whole summer. Cool Great stuff. I never got deeper into his catalogue, though.
Rick's rich catalog is well worth investigating.
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mtaber
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« Reply #24 on: August 19, 2014, 02:46:39 PM »

His Rick Nelson in Concert at the Troubadour is a great album, too.  From '69 or '70...
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