The Nelson Family
Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame
During a period that was to last 20 years, the Nelson family – Ozzie, his wife Harriet Hilliard and their two sons, David and Eric “Ricky” – was regarded as a symbol of the ideal nuclear family, a reputation achieved through the popular television series, “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”. The series, which ran on ABC from 1952 to 1966 and starred the real life family, remains the longest-running, live-action, family situation comedy in televistion history.
It all began on the radio. Saxophone-playing (and Swedish-American) Ozzie had married his “girl-singer” Harriet in the 1930s, and the couple became regulars on the airwaves, starting on the Red Skelton Show. Through program skits, Ozzie recognized their comedic chemistry (and its potential), and launched “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” on radio in 1944. By then parents of two sons, actors played the sons’ roles until in 1949 the real offspring took over.
The show jumped in television in ’52, continuing the story lines loosely based on actual experiences and sprinkled with gentle humor. Music guests starred, and the show produced the world’s first “teen idol”, (the phrase coined by Life magazine to describe Ricky Nelson).
Ricky Nelson made a career of music and movie acting until his death in a charter plane crash in 1985, and his older brother David also continued in the entertainment world as an actor, director and producer. He died in 2011, and Ozzie and Harriet in 1975 and 1994, respectively.
The Nelsons’ show business legacy lives on. Ricky’s daughter Tracy Nelson build a successful movie and television career (most notably “Father Dowling Mysteries”) – and his twin sons, Matthew and Gunnar, founders of the rock band Nelson, also perform a show in memory of their father entitled “Ricky Nelson Rememered”.
Gunnar Nelson and Matthew Nelson are singer-songwriters and musicians whose multi-platinum band, Nelson, had a #1 hit in 1990 with the single “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection”. At the Hall of Fame, the Nelsons presented and accepted the SAHF honor on the family’s behalf and also performed a few songs to those in attendance.