Remembering Rick Nelson
by Larry Murray
Matthew and Gunnar Nelson will bring their show Ricky Nelson Remembered (with The Stone Canyon Band) to the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, MA on July 30, 2010 at 8PM.
Far more than a half-hearted tribute show, this is the real deal, authentically put together by his twin sons.
Of course, Rick Nelson hated being called Ricky in his adult life, and we talked about that 40 years ago, in his tiny dressing room at the legendary Boston jazz club Lenny’s on the Turnpike in Peabody. Not long after his appearance, Lenny’s burned down and was never rebuilt. There’s not a lot of money in jazz for club owners.
Rick was a notorious womanizer, yet he loved his family and he was cool with gay guys too. They were a big part of his fan base. With so much to choose from on the main buffet, he didn’t bother trying any of the exotic dishes. Back then he was struggling to get the respect he deserved from both the music industry and the public.
Those were the days that Nelson was reduced to playing smaller clubs and venues and before the famous Garden Party and his second or third comeback.
I remember Nelson complaining that he was frustrated that his audiences wanted to hear his old hits, and the recording label wanted nothing but fresh, new stuff. He had taken his simple, clear voice and found pop, country and rockabilly all worked with it. It is said he had a drug habit, but I saw no signs of it.
It was also nearly 25 years ago that Rick Nelson lost his life in a plane crash. Now Nelson’s sons and band pay tribute to him in a multi-media rock n’ roll concert featuring Nelson’s biggest hits including “Hello Mary Lou,” “Travelin’ Man” and “Garden Party” as well as never before seen big screen video footage of the Nelson family with interviews from celebrities influenced by Rick Nelson. The show appeals to a wide audience and multiple generations and celebrates the life of America’s original “Teen Idol.”
Their songs transcend time. Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, revered for unforgettable past hits, explore fresh creative territory in the present.
Magically melodic songwriting and soaring sibling harmonies ensure that this pair will be a vital part of the music scene’s future. After the Rain was the hit debut multi-platinum album by Nelson, the band led by Matthew and Gunnar in the early ’90s. They catapulted to number one with “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection,” had three Top 10 singles, four Number 1 MTV videos, five Top 40 Billboard Hits and became massively popular overseas.
Every magazine from Rolling Stone to People did cover stories, and the twins performed on national network television shows like Late Night With David Letterman and Saturday Night Live. Critics tended to unfairly overlook Nelson, however, because of the brothers’ pin-up good looks…but that didn’t stop millions of fans from ‘getting’ what all the excitement was about.
With the rise of grunge rock in the mid-’90s, pop music grew dark and foreboding. Matthew and Gunnar chose not to compromise their positive, drug-free posture to suit the trend. Those who continued to follow the brothers’ musical progress were rewarded with numerous gems on their seven subsequent albums on their own Stone Canyon Records label. Due to unending requests, Matthew and Gunnar worked some Rick Nelson classics into their set. They perform them with respect and enthusiasm in the Ricky Nelson Remembered popular tribute show. “We figured it’s up to us to help keep his music alive,” Gunnar says. “Not only is it a true pleasure to play these great songs that people love, but it makes us feel profoundly closer to our best friend, our Pop.” What people now get when they come to see Matthew and Gunnar performing live is a set of wall to wall hits—that everyone knows. You’d be hard-pressed to hear anything that wasn’t a Top 5 hit or better in some part of the world.
Matthew and Gunnar have rare insights into what it takes to earn longevity in the entertainment world. They continue the inspiring story of a most remarkable show business family. Their grandparents, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, achieved immortality with The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, the longest-running sitcom in television history. Earlier, the couple had enjoyed big band success and had scored a number one hit in 1934. Ricky Nelson emerged from the series’ popularity to establish himself as one of the most important rock artists of the ’50s and ’60s with over 100 million record sales and three number ones of his own. So, with Matthew and Gunnar’s “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection,” the Nelsons landed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the only family to reach number one record status in three successive generations.
Matthew and Gunnar continue to tour and perform sold-out shows around the globe. Contributing to their audience’s extraordinary devotion is the fact that Matthew and Gunnar tirelessly try to please. They take time to meet and greet each and every fan following all performances. In their own words, “Our people are everything to us.”
Defying any preconceptions, Matthew and Gunnar dazzle audiences of all ages. They carry on the family tradition, while carving out their own musical identities with grace, class, and passion. “Our old fan base was primarily very young females,” Matthew says. “We were the guys they had on the posters at home and in their lockers. Now, 10 years later, those girls are grown up. They have children. They have husbands. They have real lives—and we’re still a part of it. They not only bring their husbands and children to our shows, they bring their parents and grandparents! We have the broadest age demographic on the planet. 8 to 80. And we love ‘em all.”
Much to their satisfaction, the brothers’ career path displays parallels to that of their legendary father. He found fame as a teen idol before helping found the country rock movement.
“Yeah, it is kind of weird when I sit down to think about it,” Gunnar says. “We had tremendous success at a very young age like he did. And now we’re coming to the same musical renaissance that he had at our age. It’s discovering what makes you unique, your own inner voice…getting to walk your talk for all to see and hear. Unlike our father though, we started out as songwriters first and foremost…something we learned from him when we were babies. I’m so thankful for that lesson. Seasons change, but what never will is my unshakable faith in the belief that you can’t stop the power of a hit song.”
Tickets for the performance on July 30 at 8:00 pm are $50 and $35 and can be purchased in person at the Colonial Ticket Office at 111 South Street Monday-Friday 10AM-5PM, performance Saturdays 10AM-2PM, by calling (413) 997-4444 or online at www.thecolonialtheatre.org