Johnny Cash wrote the song "Restless Kid" for him to sing in Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo (1959). However, music director Dimitri Tiomkin insisted that Nelson perform the folk song "Cindy" and Dimitri Tiomkin's own "My Rifle, My Pony and Me". Johnny Cash's evocative "Restless Kid", which sums up Ricky's Rio Bravo (1959) character "Colorado" in less than two minutes, never appeared in the film. Instead, it was released on Nelson's third album, "Ricky Sings Again" (Imperial LP 9061 [mono]/Imperial LP 12090 [stereo], 1959).
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 596-599. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
Elected to the Rock and Roll Hall Fame in 1987.
Ever since his death in a private plane crash on New Year's Eve, 1985, it had been speculated that the fire that caused the crash was the result of drug use - supposedly freebasing cocaine - either by Nelson himself or by one of his crew. This theory has since been discredited by, among other sources, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board in their official report on the crash. Their evidence shows that the cause originally given for the crash (an on-board heater short-circuiting and catching fire) is the correct one.
Father-in-law of Yvette Nelson.
He at first had no ambition to be a rock singer. When a girlfriend told him that she was in love with Elvis Presley, Rick told her that he was a rock singer, too. He hurriedly cut a cover of Fats Domino's song "I'm Walkin'", which became a big hit and started his musical career.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 1515 Vine Street in Hollywood, California.
He was engaged to Helen Blair at the time of his death. She was killed in the plane crash with him and his band.
He was voted the 91st Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Artist of all time by Rolling Stone.
His hit single "Garden Party," which in the fall of 1972 reached #6 and went gold, was about his experience during a Madison Square Garden concert. In fact, when in that song he sang "But if memories were all I sang, I'd rather drive a truck," he meant it.
Interred at Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, California, USA, on the right as you walk in, on the steep slope under the third tree, two rows above Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Hilliard.
One of the most popular teen idols on the late 1950's and early 1960's, his many hit records, primarily on the Imperial and American Decca labels, include "I'm Walkin'", "Travelin' Man", "Poor Little Fool", "For You", "Fools Rush In", "It's Late", and "Garden Party". Most of these songs were originally introduced on "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet" (1952) TV show.
Ranked #2 in TV Guide's list of "TV's 25 Greatest Teen Idols" (23 January 2005 issue).
Ricky's children Tracy Nelson, Matthew Nelson, and Gunnar Nelson always maintained that their father's 1985 plane crash death was the result of a malfunctioning heater and not of alleged drug use on board the plane.