For many years, Ricky Nelson was the teen pop star idolized by his admirers, and he was one of the most televised performers of his time.
While many are aware of the enigmatic circumstances surrounding his passing, few are aware of how a split-second decision resulted in the survival of his two young boys.
On May 8, 1940, Eric Hilliard Nelson was born in Teaneck, New Jersey. The hit sitcom “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” which his parents Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Hilliard Nelson created, made his parents famous.
A record for comedy longevity, The Nelson’s ran for sixteen years. At around the ages of 8 and 10, Ricky and his older brother David also joined the cast of the show.
Ricky attended Gardner Street Public School during this time, eventually making it to Hollywood High School. He had a propensity to dislike schooling, which strained his relationship with his father, who wanted Ricky to go to college.
He was already earning more money than the majority of established adults by the time he started to get close to the right age for attending college. He didn’t need a college education because he already made about $100,000 annually.
Ricky made an appearance in the “Ricky, the Drummer” episode of his family’s show when he was 17 years old. He recorded and published “I’m Walking,” a song he performed on that episode, as his debut single. On Billboard’s Best Sellers list, it rose fast to number 4.
His popularity soared, enabling him to frequently make music debuts on his parents’ show prior to single releases. “Garden Party,” “It’s Late,” “Fools Rush In,” “For You,” “Poor Little Fool,” and “Traveling Man” were a few of the well-known successes.
Rickey started dating Kristin Harmon in 1961. Kristin, who was also raised in Hollywood, came from a similar background. The Nelsons and her family were also good friends.
They got hitched in April of 1963. Sam Hilliard Nelson, the twins Matthew Gray and Gunnar Eric Nelson, and their daughter, the actress Tracy Kristine Nelson, were their four children.
As he constantly released Top 40 songs, Ricky’s popularity grew throughout the 1960s.
He went on numerous tours over the years as a result of his well-liked music, which was part of the expanding rock n’ roll genre.
Unfortunately, he tragically and mysteriously passed away during one of these tours.
Despite frequently needing to travel by plane for promotions and tours, Ricky was known to detest flying. In an effort to feel better on airplanes so that he could continue his career and see his admirers, he reportedly even went to psychotherapy sessions.
Nelson was planned to travel to Dallas with his kids Matthew and Gunnar for Ricky’s New Year’s performance in Dallas. However,
“We were supposed to be on the plane on that trip. Our dad called us right before we were supposed to come down to Alabama and meet him and fly with him to the New Year’s show in Dallas.”
A few days before they were meant to depart together, some kind of bad feeling or premonition prompted Ricky to call his sons and explain they would not fly together to Dallas.
A few days prior to the trip, there were some reports of engine issues on the flight that Ricky was supposed to board.
Without his two sons, Ricky boarded the DC-3 in Alabama, and as the aircraft approached its destination, the cabin began to fill with smoke. Ricky and the other passengers on board tragically perished in the fire, but the pilot was able to safely land the aircraft in Texas.
Even after thirty years, the cause of the plane fire is still unknown. Regarding the cause, rumors abounded, including some lewd ones about Ricky doing cocaine with his former lover Helen Blaine.
David, Ricky’s brother, passionately refutes this theory by saying that Ricky has never used cocaine.
Later, Greg McDonald, Ricky’s manager, confirmed that Ricky and Helen were also dozing off in the cabin when the fire began.
Tracy Nelson, Ricky’s daughter, later admitted to Larry King that she thinks the tragedy was caused by a mechanical malfunction.
Tracy revealed that the aircraft, also known as the “Flying Bus” because to its slow speed, had a history of issues with its gasoline heater, which might have easily resulted in an unintentional fire.
Thirty years later, the origin of the fire is still unknown, but it is obvious that Ricky Nelson’s foresight helped to avert a worse family tragedy.
Matthew and Gunnar, the twin sons of Ricky went on to have their own successful music careers together in remembrance of their father. Matthew says:
“It’s an ongoing labor of love, an open letter to our dad, who was our best friend.”
Rest in peace, Ricky! Let us know what you think of his life-saving revelation in the comments.