The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum


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Tracy and Gunnar Nelson accept induction for Ricky Nelson

Gunnar:    "Rick Nelson’s rock and roll ambitions ... one of the most culturally significant forces of pop. He was the first rock and roll performer created in the public mind through television. A rock and roll star coming from left ... or in this case, right field ... down the street from Ozzie and Harriet’s house. Elvis Presley, the original bobcat, was a cultural outsider whose music was considered frightening to most of America’s parents. But Ricky Nelson wasn’t a threat. He was the kid next door, and he set an example for millions of teens, who, through rock and roll, found a way to undermine the sterility of the Eisenhower years. Ricky might have made rock a little easier to comprehend, but it didn’t dilute his energy or his inherent message. There was a sincerity and honesty to his music that all the teen idols of the whitewashed 50’s lacked. Rick Nelson bridged the gritty sensuality of rockabilly and the suave waspish endearments of pop. Compared to the original rock that inspired him at the time, Nelson may have been a bit laid back, but his cool charisma and impeccable taste in material and in musicians displayed an intuitive knowledge of rock and roll values. The bridge that Nelson built between rockabilly and pop carried over a lot fans who might have originally avoided rock because of its baser instincts. Like James Dean and Elvis, Ricky Nelson was a beautiful boy who was also an outsider. You never quite knew what was going on inside the head of Ozzie and Harriet’s kid, and there was that slightly remote, untouchable quality that made Rick Nelson a great teen idol ... the handsome but solitary romantic."

Tracy Nelson:    "It was to Rick Nelson’s credit that he was aware of the fact that even as a teenager, he had the savvy that when they called him a teenage idol, affecting the state of affairs with a bittersweet, not smarmy twist. Nelson could appreciate the irony of his career. People sometimes compared Rick Nelson to Elvis, but Elvis would never have written a song like “Garden Party” because Elvis never sang Dylan songs to oldies fans. Rick Nelson did sing Dylan. He also sang country, and what he lacked in soul he made up in ability. He was smart, he had a sense of craft and he won’t be forgotten. Good taste is timeless. I just want to say that it’s hard to know what pop would have wanted us to say here, but I can honestly say that there’s nothing ... no other honor that would have meant more to him than this, and I really wish he was here. Thank you."