"TEENAGE IDOL, TRAVELIN' MAN: The Complete Biography of Rick Nelson" by Philip Bashe

"TEENAGE IDOL, TRAVELIN' MAN: The Complete Biography of Rick Nelson"

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Earnest, likable account of the child TV star who was ""shamefully undersung"" as a grown-up rock star. When Rick Nelson's private plane burned and crashed in 1985, killing him, his fiance, e, and members of his band, it was widely rumored that Nelson--then 45, and supposedly despondent at the decline of his music career--had accidentally started the fire while freebasing cocaine. Very unlikely, says Bashe (coauthor, That's Not All Folks!, 1988, etc.): Nelson, he argues, was a basically secure entertainer who did not need acceptance to remain happy. Nelson was born into a wealthy show-business family and made his TV debut at age seven on the phenomenally successful (1952-66) sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. That show, starring the real Nelson family, was masterminded by workaholic Ozzie--a benevolent despot who completely arranged his youngest son's life for him. By age 17, Nelson had started singing on the show and issuing records (""Poor Little Fool,"" ""A Teenager's Romance,"" etc.) that were snatched up by an estimated ten million teenage fans. His ""role in spreading the rock & roll gospel and his consummate musicality,"" says Bashe, ""remain glaringly overlooked."" Many critics regarded Nelson as a cleaned-up, parentally sanctioned Elvis: ""An inspired fake,"" stated the Village Voice's Robert Christgau. In 1969, Nelson put together the Stone Canyon Band to feature his singing and songwriting, but for the remainder of his life, only one hit, ""Garden Party"" (1972), was forthcoming: The public refused to accept Rick Nelson and wanted only to see cute little Ricky singing his hits from the 50's. By his death, Nelson was playing 250 dates a year--many in suburban supper clubs and shabby steakhouses--to remain solvent. Fluidly told and thoroughly documented (including accounts of Nelson's prodigious love life): a singular and interesting biography.

Pub Date: May 8th, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Hyperion