Garden Party ~ Ricky Nelson

Born in Teaneck, New Jersey, he was the younger son of Ozzie Nelson, the leader of a big band, and Harriet Hilliard Nelson, the band’s singer. Along with brother David Nelson, the family starred in the long-running radio and television series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet from 1944 to 1954 on the radio, and 1952 to 1966 on television. However, David and Ricky Nelson did not join the cast until 1949; for the first five years of the radio show, the sons were played by professional actors.

Despite the promotional aspects of his career, it is clear that Nelson knew and loved music, and was a creditable performer before he became a teen idol, largely due to his parents’ musical background. In addition to guitar, he also played drums and the clarinet. (He showcased his drum skills in the same episode where he made his singing debut.) Unlike many teen idols of the time, Nelson showed his personal taste in working with strong musicians, including James Burton, Joe Maphis, The Jordanaires, and Johnny and Dorsey Burnette. While Elvis may have served as the catalyst for Rick’s musical career, his real inspiration came from none other than Carl Perkins.

From 1957 to 1962, Nelson had thirty Top-40 hits, more than any other artist at the time except Elvis Presley (who had 53) and Pat Boone (who had 38). Many of Nelson’s early records were double hits with both the A side and the B side hitting the Billboard charts. When Billboard introduced the Hot 100 chart on August 4, 1958, Nelson’s single “Poor Little Fool” became the first song ever in the #1 position on that chart.

While Nelson preferred rockabilly and uptempo rock songs like “Hello Mary Lou”, “It’s Late”, “Stood Up”, and “Be-Bop Baby”, his smooth, calm voice made him a natural to sing ballads. He had major success with “Travelin’ Man”, “Poor Little Fool”, “Young World”, “Lonesome Town”, and “Teenage Idol”, which clearly could have been about Nelson himself at the time. (It was Life magazine that reputedly coined the phrase “teen idol” in an article it did about Nelson in 1959).

In addition to his recording career, Nelson also appeared in movies, including Rio Bravo with John Wayne and Dean Martin (1959), The Wackiest Ship In the Army (1960), and Love and Kisses (1965).

On May 8, 1961 (his 21st birthday), Nelson officially changed his recording name from “Ricky Nelson” to “Rick Nelson”. However, not too long before his untimely death, Rick realized a dream of his, when he met his idol, Carl Perkins, who, while musing that they were the last of the “rockabilly breed”, called Nelson “Ricky”. As the story goes, Nelson felt somehow validated by Perkins calling him by the name he stopped using at age 21. He then contacted his manager, who was then instructed to restore the “y” to his name.

In 1963, Nelson signed a 20-year contract with Decca Records, but he had no further major hits after 1964′s “For You”. In the mid-1960s, he began to move towards country music, becoming a pioneer in the country-rock genre. As a result, he was one of the early influences of the so-called “California Sound” (which would include singers like Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and other bands like The Eagles). Yet Nelson himself did not reach the Top 40 again until 1970, when he recorded Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me” with the Stone Canyon Band. This most likely included drummer Kevin Edwards, who still lives to tell his story today. In 1972, Nelson reached the Top 40 one last time with “Garden Party”, a song he wrote in disgust after a Madison Square Garden audience booed him when he tried playing new songs instead of just his old hits from the 1950s and 1960s. “Garden Party” reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and was certified as a gold single. (Coincidentally, “Garden Party” was a hit at the same time Elvis Presley was having his last Top-10 single, “Burning Love”, as was Chuck Berry with “My Ding-a-Ling”. (Berry is among the musicians alluded to in the lyrics of “Garden Party”.)

In 1985, Nelson joined a nostalgia rock tour of England. It was a major success, and it revived some interest in his work. He tried to duplicate that effect in the United States, and he began a tour of the South. While on that tour, on his way to a New Year’s Eve concert in Dallas, Texas, he died in a plane crash in De Kalb, Texas. Nelson was buried in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. The last song he sang on stage before his death was Buddy Holly’s “Rave On.” Holly had also perished in a plane crash.

Garden Party

On October 15, 1971, a Rock ‘n Roll Revival concert was given at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The playbill included many greats of the early rock era, including Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Bobby Rydell. Also included was Ricky Nelson, who had dropped the diminutive of his youth and now preferred to be called Rick.

Nelson came on stage dressed in the then-current fashion, wearing bell-bottoms and a purple velvet shirt, with his hair hanging down to his shoulders. He started playing his older songs “Hello Mary Lou” and “She Belongs To Me”, but, then, he played the Rolling Stones hit song “Honky Tonk Woman” and the crowd began to boo. While some reports say that the booing was caused by police action in the back of the audience, Nelson took it personally and left the stage. He watched the rest of the concert backstage and did not take his final bow for the finale.

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I went to a garden party
to reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories
and play our songs again
When I got to the garden party,
they all knew my name
No one recognized me,
I didn’t look the same

But it’s all right now,
I learned my lesson well.
See you can’t please everyone
so you got to please yourself

People came from miles around,
everyone was there
Yoko brought her walrus,
there was magic in the air
‘n’ over in the corner,
much to my surprise
Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan’s shoes wearing his disguise

But it’s all right now,
I learned my lesson well.
See you can’t please everyone
so you got to please yourself

lott-in-dah-dah, lot-in-dah-dah-dah

Played them all the old songs,
thought that’s why they came
No one heard the music,
we didn’t look the same
I said hello to “Mary Lou”,
she belongs to me
When I sang a song about a honky-tonk,
it was time to leave

But it’s all right now,
I learned my lesson well.
See you can’t please everyone
so you got to please yourself

lot-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah)
lot-in-dah-dah-dah

Someone opened up a closet door
and out stepped Johnny B. Goode
Playing guitar like a-ringin’ a bell
and lookin’ like he should
If you gotta play at garden parties,
I wish you a lotta luck
But if memories were all I sang,
I’d rather drive a truck

And it’s all right now,
I learned my lesson well.
See you can’t please everyone
so you got to please yourself

lot-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah)
lot-in-dah-dah-dah

And it’s all right now,
I learned my lesson well
See you can’t please everyone
so you got to please yourself

�

Hello Mary Lou
I Got a Woman
Teenage Idol

From the Ozzie and Harriet Show

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Hello Mary Lou
Hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
Sweet Mary Lou I’m so in love with you
I knew Mary Lou, we’d never part
So hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart

Passed me by one sunny day
Flashed those big brown eyes my way
I knew I wanted you forever more
Now I’m not one that gets around
Swear my feet stuck to the ground
And ‘though I never did meet you before

I said hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
Sweet Mary Lou I’m so in love with you
I knew Mary Lou, we’d never part
So hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart

I saw your lips I heard your voice
Believe me I just had no choice
Wild horses couldn’t make me stay away
I thought about a moonlit night
Arms around you good and tight
That’s all I had to see for me to say

Hey hey
Hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
Sweet Mary Lou I’m so in love with you
I knew Mary Lou, we’d never part
So hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
Yes hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
Hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart

I Got A Woman
I got a woman, way over town
She’s good to me, aw yeah
Well I got a woman, way over town
She’s good to me, woh yeah

Oh she’s my baby, don’t you understand
Yes, and I’m her lovin’ man
I got a woman, way over town
She’s good to me, aw yeah

She’s saved her lovin’, kissin and a huggin’
Aw just for me, aw yeah
She’s saved her lovin’, kissin and a huggin’
Baby just for me, woh yeah

Aw she’s my baby, don’t you understand
Yes, and I’m her lovin’ man
I got a woman, way over town
I said a she’s alright, woh yeah

She’s saved her lovin’, kissin and a huggin’
Aw just for me, aw yeah
She’s saved her lovin’, kissin and a huggin’
Baby just for me, aw yeah

Aw she’s my baby, don’t you understand
Yes, and I’m her lovin’ man
I got a woman, way over town
I said a she’s alright,
Alright, yeah, yeah alright
Aw, aw alright, yeah, yeah alright
Aw, aw alright

I gotta woman, way over town now
She’s good to me, yeah, yeah, yeah

Teenage Idol
Some people call me a teenage idol
Some people say they envy me
I guess they got no way of knowing
How lonesome I can be

I need somebody to be my baby
Someone to tell my troubles to
I’ve got no time to ever find her
Cause I’m just passing through

I travel around from town to lonely town
I guess I’ll always be just a rolling stone
If I find fortune and fame and lots of people know my name
That won’t mean a thing if I’m all alone

I get no rest when I’m feeling weary
I got to pack my bags and go
I got to be somewhere tomorrow
To smile and do my show

I travel around from town to lonely town
I guess I’ll always be just a rolling stone
If I find fortune and fame and lots of people know my name
That won’t mean a thing if I’m all alone

Some people call me a teenage idol
Some people say they envy me
I guess they got no way of knowing
How lonesome I can be
How lonesome I can be

(613)

About DJ Allyn

DJ Allyn is a burned out radio guy who went on to become a burned out sound engineer for a few Seattle area grunge bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Left the madness of worldwide tours with bands, cleaned up my act and went into the relative sanity of sound engineering for television series. Currently working as the Director of Sound for a television series being filmed in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I am always on the lookout for interesting videos, old music, and fun.

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