Monday, May 9, 2011

Some People Call Me a Teenage Idol

I have been working on a screenplay off and on for the past couple of years. I'll spare you the gory details, because there's nothing more dull than listening to a wannabe writer rambling on about his future masterpiece, but one of the major characters is a 1960's male teen idol. Knowing nothing about this era of music, apart from a couple of seasons of American Dreams, I turned to a friend who did know a thing or two about it for some suggestions of artists to look at. A lot of his suggestions did nothing for me personally, even if they did give me a greater sense of the period, but there was one teen idol who caught my attention: Ricky Nelson.

The only thing I knew about Ricky before all this was that he was on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, one of those "perfect 1950's families" sitcoms that were popular back in the day, and that he was often cited as one of the earliest influences on rock & roll. Other than that, absolutely nothing. So I was fascinated to find out some of the backstage dirt about the Nelson family and their show. In case you don't know, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet was, in a way, reality TV before there was such a thing. Ozzie & Harriet Nelson, along with their two sons Ricky and David, essentially played themselves on the TV show, using real life situations as plot points on the show. The show was on for 14 years, so the world literally saw the boys grow up before their eyes. God, can you imagine someone taping you all the time while you were going through puberty? If you think I'm awkward now, just imagine me at 13 years old, my voice squeaking and wearing awful, oversized clothes. Not a pretty picture, eh? I don't know how Ricky and David did it.

Ricky's music career started after boasting to a friend about making an album. Ozzie, the show's mastermind and control freak extraordinaire, saw this is an opportunity to appeal to Ricky's popularity as the young heartthrob. The ploy worked as he immediately shot to the top of the charts and landed 30 Top 40 hits within a seven year or so span, only behind Elvis and Pat Boone. And Ricky accomplished all this without appearing on shows like American Bandstand and Ed Sullivan which would have boosted his popularity even further, as Ozzie used his career to the show's benefit. Whether or not that was the right move for him we will never know. What we do know, however, is that he made some mighty fine tunes that, from time period with a lot of disposable junk, sound just as great as they did back in the day. Some of his goodies include 'It's Up to You,' 'Teenage Idol' and 'You Know What I Mean,' but my absolute favorites are 'Poor Little Fool' and 'Hello Mary Lou'. While 'Hello Mary Lou' is silly, catchy-as-hell fun, 'Poor Little Fun' is a darkish cover of a then-popular song about a player who finally gets played that actually helped me when writing my screenplay.

  Hello Mary Lou by lanarchyfan521

Finally, how can we discuss Ricky Nelson without talking about how beautiful he was? Swoon! Talk about a teenage dream. I feel bad for his poor brother who not only didn't have Ricky's musical talent but also had to compete with him in the looks department.

Unfortunately for him, there was no real competition as Ricky would always win, hands down. Poor David. It's not his fault he inherited his father's unfortunate-looking face. Oh well. Let's look at a couple more pictures of Ricky being pretty.

I love this last one because he's doing the Nicky Hoult lip snarl decades before Nicky first did. Sexy as hell, I must say.


mPhillips said...

My favorite song by him is "Garden Party," which he recorded after his teen idol phase was over. He basically tells his former fans, and people who just want to hear him sing "Hello Mary Lou" that he's moved on from the teen idol stuff. "If memories were all I sang, I'd rather drive a truck."

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Dame James said...

I appreciate what he does with 'Garden Party,' but I can't get into it. I understand why he'd want to move on from his teen idol music; it couldn't have been fun being a serious musician trying to develop a new sound with fans insisting he stay the course with the old stuff.

Vera said...

Here's something that I always found funny/odd. Before Ozzie and Harriet was a TV show it was a long-running radio show, and in the early years of the radio show Ricky and David were played by actors who were not Ricky and David.