Born Eric Hilliard Nelson (Hilliard was his mother's maiden name), he began his career on the radio, with his family on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet[?]. The show soon moved to television. Ricky began a rock and roll career in 1957. Apocryphally, he recorded his debut single, the Fats Domino song "I'm Walkin'[?]", in order to impress his girlfriend; the song was a hit. It was clear, however, that he knew and loved music before breaking out as a performer.
Unlike most teen idols of the time, Nelson worked with some great musicians, including James Burton, Joe Maphis[?], and Johnny and Dorsey Burnette. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Nelson was one of the highest-selling singers, second only to Elvis Presley. In 1963, Nelson signed a 20-year contract with Decca Records, but he had no further major hits after 1964's "For You". 1972's "Garden Party[?]", a self-penned country song bewailing his fans' unwillingness to hear him play new music, was a moderate success, but he never regained his career's momentum.
He died in a plane crash in De Kalb, Texas in 1985, on his way to a New Year's Eve[?] concert in Dallas, Texas and was interred in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. The crash was due to mechanical problems.
Ricky Nelson has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1515 Vine Street.
His father, Ozzie Nelson, had a big band and his mother was his singer. His twin sons, Gunnar and Matthew Nelson, also were teen idols, performing as Nelson, and his daughter Tracy Nelson[?] is an actress.