Rock’n’roll pioneer Rick Nelson would have celebrated his 82nd birthday today – May 8.
This photo of Rick and me was taken in his car when I worked at KGW in Portland, OR in 1959. Notice the tape recorder. It was called a Mohawk, and like the haircut of the same name, it cut out the interview. When I got back to the station there was nothing on the tape. The same thing happened in 1958 backstage at the PNE Forum, no sound. It wasn’t until 1976 when he returned to Vancouver for a concert at the PNE Star Spectacular that I was able to get this interview. I showed Rick the picture and we had a laugh about my bad luck.
Rick was the first teenage idol, and there is no doubt about that, but in those early days in the 50’s he had no stage presence. He would sing a song and then take a drink of Coca-Cola. Having seen the dynamic Elvis on stage at Empire Stadium, the audience booed him. He didn’t deserve to be booed. He was a great guy and one of the early rockers who really could rock and roll. He was a very quiet man. Many people said if James Dean could sing, he would have sounded like Rick Nelson.
I had booked Rick for the Legends Of Rock’n’Roll show at Expo 86, but sadly he was killed in a plane crash near Dallas on December 31, 1985. Rick Nelson was just 45.
A genuine rock’n’roll original, Rick Nelson, from your friends at Red Robinson’s Legends and our podcast partners: