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Oldies 12/01/2006

'Ricky Nelson: Greatest Hits' CD Rockets Up The Chart As Billboard Top 100's Greatest Gainer & Debuts On Billboard's Top Internet Album Sales Chart

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HOLLYWOOD, CA. (Capitol/EMI Music Catalog Marketing) - In a week that saw a thirty percent average sales drop across the music spectrum, Capitol/EMI Music Catalog Marketing and the Rick Nelson Company proudly announce that Ricky Nelson: Greatest Hits, released December 27, has rocketed up Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart from No 102 to No 56 for its second week, making it Billboard's Greatest Gainer in the Top 100. The CD also makes a No 18 debut on Billboard's Top Internet Albums chart, while a companion DVD, Ricky Nelson Sings, also released December 27, was's best-selling music DVD title for the week of January 1 and entered Billboard's Music Video chart this week at No 31 with sales of more than 2,300 copies.

Ricky Nelson: Greatest Hits' first week sales tally took the CD to No 102 in its debut week, marking Nelson's best chart week since Garden Party's No 32 peak in 1973, and his strongest retail week since his Playing To Win album (Capitol) reached No 153 in 1981. Until now, Nelson's music has not sold more than 2,300 units in any single week during the SoundScan era. Second week sales of Ricky Nelson: Greatest Hits increased six percent to 18,736 while the industry's overall market was down by an average of thirty percent for the week.

Capitol/EMI's new Ricky Nelson: Greatest Hits CD and Ricky Nelson Sings DVD commemorate the 20th anniversary of the December 31, 1985 plane crash that took Nelson's life. The new CD collects 25 Top 25 hits from one of America's greatest icons, from his first, 1957's "I'm Walkin'" to his last, 1972's "Garden Party." Additionally, Nelson's groundbreaking "Ozzie and Harriett" performances make their DVD debut on Ricky Nelson Sings, the home video release of a newly-produced PBS Television special that is currently airing.

Nelson brought rock & roll to living rooms across America, co-starring in his parents' weekly hit, "The Ozzie and Harriet Show." Ricky Nelson became most famous for the string of infectious ballads and rockabilly recordings he made throughout the '50s, before becoming one of the pioneers of country rock in the '60s. Ricky Nelson: Greatest Hits features 17 Top 10 hits ("Hello Mary Lou," "Lonesome Town," "I'm Walkin'"), including three No 1s ("Travelin' Man," "Poor Little Fool" and "Garden Party").

Ricky Nelson's pivotal role in the development of rock & roll is the focus of the documentary Ricky Nelson Sings. Airing on PBS in December, the hour-long show, produced by LSL (Grammy nominated Brian Wilson Presents ... Smile), features 18 musical performances from the "Ozzie and Harriet Show," along with new interviews from Nelson's legendary guitarist James Burton, fan Kris Kristofferson and Nelson's children: Gunnar, Matthew, Sam and Tracy. The DVD contains the documentary and 30 minutes of additional footage, including the world's first music video, Nelson's 1961 performance of "Travelin' Man" before a film montage created by Ozzie, and "Nelson & Burton Reunited," a spontaneous and magical performance by the Nelson sons with James Burton, captured during the new documentary's production.

Ricky Nelson's recording career began almost as a fluke. One night in 1957 Nelson was on a date with a young lady who swooned over an Elvis Presley song playing on the radio. In a move to impress her, Nelson fibbed that he, too, was cutting a record, and the girl laughed in his face. Nelson entered a recording studio, sang a cover of Fats Domino's "I'm Walking," and played it on "The Ozzie and Harriet Show." Within a week, the record had sold one million copies, an unheard of figure for the time. The track went to No 2 on the Billboard chart and the b-side, "A Teenager's Romance," reached No 2 as well.

From then on, Nelson performed a song at the end of every broadcast and quickly became the first teen idol (as coined by LIFE magazine). He recorded everything from traditional blues to rockabilly and played with a backing band that included bassists James Kirkland and Joe Osborn, and legendary guitarist James Burton, who later went on to play lead for Elvis Presley.

While Nelson was musically prolific in the early '60s, tastes had changed and Nelson's family-oriented pop was overshadowed by the Beatles, The Rolling Stones and others. Then, in the late '60s, Nelson, who had always loved country music, decided to cut a country album, setting the stage for a new style that would eventually be dubbed the California country sound.

His next great triumph rose out of a seeming failure. In October of 1971, Nelson was reluctantly persuaded to play a rock & roll revival show at Madison Square Garden, on the same bill as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Bobby Rydell. The audience expected Nelson to play his '50s hits, but he refused and sang only new material. Halfway through the set, the crowd began to boo.
There were reports that police were in the back moving people out, and in the political spirit of the early '70s the crowd was actually booing the police activity. Regardless, Rick thought the crowd was booing him, and deeply shaken, he left the stage.

Later, he put his thoughts on paper: "I went to a Garden Party, to reminisce with my old friends, a chance to share some memories, and play our songs again. When I got to the Garden Party, they all knew my name, but no one heard the music - I didn't look the same. But it's all right now. I learned my lesson well. I learned my lesson as well. You see you can't please everyone so you gotta please yourself." These poetic lines became the lyrics to "Garden Party," the title track for Nelson's first million-seller in more than a decade. The album reached a high of No 6 on Billboard's album chart and went gold in 1972. On the cover of the album, Nelson stands in starkly formal black and white, defiantly holding out his Les Paul guitar, confidence beaming in his eyes.

By 1985, Nelson had assembled a new, vibrant, young band and the group toured extensively. Although he was almost always on the road, traveling was a major source of anxiety for Nelson. He hated flying and refused to fly in a propeller plane or non-commercial airline. However, he broke both of his own rules when he purchased a vintage DC-3 that had been previously owned by Jerry Lee Lewis, surprising and confusing many who knew him well.

On December 31, 1985, while en route from Alabama to a New Year's Eve show in Dallas, a faulty heater caused Nelson's DC-3 to crash in a field near DeKalb, Texas. Except for the pilot, none of the passengers survived.

Nelson was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Artists as diverse as Paul McCartney (who was in discussions to produce a Nelson album), John Fogerty, and even some of his own heroes, including Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, admired and respected him. Although he made his last recordings more than 20 years ago, Ricky Nelson's music remains timeless.

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