I wonder if Rick Nelson would have been the star he was if it hadn’t been for the Ozzie and Harriet television show. Rick (then called Ricky) was the younger of two brothers, sons of Ozzie and Harriet and while the show was mostly about the parents, the kids got lots of chances to disrupt things.
Rick grew up on that television show, right before the eyes of America. When he got old enough to be interested in music, he started singing songs on the show and recording hit records. He first hit the Top 40 in 1957 and eventually put 36 songs on the chart. His first number one was “Poor Little Fool” which occurred in 1958 and can be found in that year of number ones. His second and last number one was “Travelin’ Man.” His last hit was “Garden Party” in 1972. Then, in 1985, while touring, he and his band left Guntersville, Alabama in a leased airplane that held nineteen people, on their way to Dallas, Texas, when they crashed, just two miles from the airfield. All but two of the occupants of the plane were killed, including Rick Nelson. It was New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1985.
“Travelin’ Man” was written by Jerry Fuller, who wrote the song for Sam Cooke. Cooke’s manager was not impressed and so rejected the song, so Fuller offered it to Rick/ The song tells of a man who travels around leaving a girl in every town. What’s interesting about this song is the flip side of the record. On the B-side of “Travelin’ Man” is “Hello Mary Lou.” Now “Hello Mary Lou” was not a number one song. (It reached only number nine.) But it became his biggest hit ever. Co-written by the performer Gene Pitney, it hit number one in 32 countries and sold more than 7 million copies, but didn’t make number one in the United States. It is said that “Hello Mary Lou” became Rick’s signature song. On the Ozzie and Harriet show, Ozzie edited some footage of the places Rick was singing about in “Travelin’ Man”. This could be, arguably, called the first conceptual rock video in history.
“Travelin’ Man” debuted on the pop chart on May 1, 1961 and spent two weeks at number one.
This video looks to be the one Ozzie Nelson put together for the Ozzie and Harriet television show: