Guest Author - Amber Grey
The Nelson family has not just one but three generations of musical talent running through their veins, most recently, with the twin sons of singer-songwriter Ricky Nelson, Matthew and Gunnar Nelson. It began with their grandfather Ozzie.
Many folks may not know that Ozzie Nelson is not just famous for his 1950s television program. Much earlier than that, Ozzie led an orchestra, “Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra.” Ozzie was determined to have the orchestra succeed. So determined, that once when a newspaper ran a “Most Popular Band” poll, Ozzie collected unsold copies of the newspaper and sent in ballots to tally for his orchestra. As a result, they beat out Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra. In 1932, Harriet Hilliard joined the orchestra as female vocalist and recorded duets with Ozzie. Three years later, Ozzie and Harriet married. They continued to appear together on radio shows while appearing in numerous musical films including – “Sweetheart of the Campus” (1941), “Strictly in the Groove” (1942) and others. Meanwhile, Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra was also featured in mildly entertaining comedic short-films to promote the band — “I’ve Got Those ‘Oh What an Easy Job You’ve Got, All You Do is Wave A Stick’ Blues ” (1940) was one of them. In addition to all the work Ozzie put into his orchestra and their success, Ozzie produced a number of radio shows including “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet” (1944), which would later become the popular television show.
Ozzie appeared alongside his sons and Rock Hudson in a comedy film titled “Here Come The Nelsons” (1952). Ozzie Nelson was a part of the writing team, with his brother Donald Nelson in developing the screenplay. Several months later, “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet” (1952) debuted on ABC Television. Ozzie produced, directed and wrote a number of the episodes. The television show was popular for almost fifteen years and made their son Erik (“Ricky”) Nelson a prime teen idol of the 50s. Ozzie’s son Ricky Nelson would continue to record popular classic songs such as “Travelin’ Man” and perform into the 1970s. Ricky was also featured in a few Western films, co-starring alongside such musical legends as Dean Martin. In 1985, Nelson perished in an airplane accident. Two years later, Ricky was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. His twin sons, Gunnar and Matthew have continued the music in their family, generating their own hits in the 1990s and appearing around the world. They have appeared annually at the spring “Flower Power” Festival at the Walt Disney World Epcot Theme Park. During that week, rather than doing their own songs, they perform a tribute of songs of their dad, Ricky Nelson .