Our Top 10 Ricky Nelson songs takes a look at the career of one of pop culture’s first teen idols that succeeded in music, the movies and television. Ricky Nelson’s career began as a young child on the television show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. As the son of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Ricky Nelson was born into show business. Ricky Nelson began his career as a pop star in the late 50s. His single “Poor Little Fool,” became the first number one record on Billboards brand new Hot 100 music charts that replaced the Top 100 charts. A chart system that would become the number one music recognition system for chart success in the world.
Ricky Nelson had tremendous success on the pop charts. Ricky Nelson enjoyed a very prolific career in the music business. He released close to 100 singles with almost 20 of them reaching the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ricky Nelson also had a very impressive television career appearing on television shows from the late 50s all the way into the early 80s. Ricky Nelson’s life ended tragically in a plane crash in 1985. Throughout his career he went by both Ricky Nelson during his early days and then Rick Nelson after he turned 21. Our top 10 Ricky Nelson songs list will look to just highlight some of the biggest hits he had especially during his younger days.
# 10 – Poor Little Fool
We thought it would be best to open up our top 10 Ricky Nelson songs list with the singer’s first number one single. As we wrote in the intro, this is also the first song of all time to hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The song “Poor Little Fool,” was released in 1958. It was written by Sharon Sheeley. The song was also released on Ricky Nelson’s second album entitled Ricky Nelson. Elvis Presley’s legendary backup singers The Jordanaires appeared on the song. The song was also a top 10 hit on the US Billboard Country & Western Best Sellers charts, US Billboard Rhythm & Blues Best Sellers charts as well as becoming a top 10 hit in the United Kingdom. This was one of the biggest songs of the late 50s.
# 9 – I’m Walkin’
Continuing with our top 10 Ricky Nelson songs list we turn to Ricky Nelson’s first ever single release entitled “I’m Walking.” Ricky Nelson had originally recorded the song on an episode of the television show The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet. The song was then released as a single by Verve records where it broke into the Billboard Hot 100’s top 20. The song had already been a popular staple in pop culture because the original version released by Fats Domino was a big hit. Interestingly, the flipside of the single “I’m Walking,” entitled “A Teenager’s Romance,” became an even bigger hit for Ricky Nelson breaking the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10. Nonetheless, “I’m Walking,” was a much better recording. Not bad for a first ever single release.
# 8 – Lonesome Town
We change gears a bit here at number eight on our top 10 Ricky Nelson songs list. “Lonesome Town,” is such a classic rock and roll country western ballad. It’s just that type of song that could be covered by anybody because it was so well written. Ricky Nelson recorded the song first and had a huge hit with it. Ricky Nelson’s version of “Lonesome Town,” hit number six on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958. The song would be covered by many artists over the years including a great version by Paul McCartney on his Run Devil Run album. Other standout versions included the cool version by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and a live broadcast of the song performed by Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. Great song, great recording, legendary hit single.
# 7 – It’s Late
This is one of those songs that just melted into the culture of the 1950. “It’s Late, we get to get on home,” became a very popular saying for years from this song. The song was released in 1958. The song was a top 10 hit in the United States and also one of his most successful charting songs in the United Kingdom where hit number three. A great rockabilly song that stands as one of Ricky Nelson’s best recordings. Listen to how good this record sounds. It’s incredible that this was recorded in 1958
# 6 -Be-Bop Baby
Ricky Nelson’s song “Be-Bop Baby,” was released in 1957. The song was a top 10 hit on the US Billboard Top 100. The song was written Pearl Lendhurst. The song employs a slight hambone beat with it’s staccato guitar lick and slamming drum groove.
# 5 – Stood Up
We break on into the second half of our top 10 Ricky Nelson songs list with the great rockin rockabilly tune “Stood Up.” It is such a clean recording. Listen to how clear the drums sound. The bass is bopping. Ricky Nelson’s vocal’s are front and center in pitch perfect form. They must have went crazy over a single release that sounded this good. “Stood Up” was a big hit for Ricky Nelson. One of his biggest. The song went all the way to number two on the Billboard Top 100 in 1957. The song was written by Dub Dickerson and Erma Herrold.
# 4 – Teenage Idol
This great Jack Lewis song was released by Ricky Nelson in 1962. At the time Ricky Nelson had changed his name to Rick Nelson. The song “Teenage Idol,” became another big hit for Rick Nelson breaking into the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10 and peaking at number five. The song was released as a stand alone single.
# 3 – Travelin’ Man
At number three on our top 10 Rick Nelson songs list we turn to one of Rick Nelson’s great rock and roll tunes entitled “Travelin’ Man.” Everybody loved this one. The song was released in 1961 on Rick Nelson’s album Rick is 21. “Travelin’ Man,” became a number one single for Rick Nelson in the United States on the Billboard Hot 100. The song also hit number one in Australia.
# 2 – Hello Mary Lou, Goodbye Heart
“Hello Mary Lou, Goodbye Heart,” may just be the very first rock and roll cowbell song. The song was released on Ricky Nelson’s album Rick is 21. This is the point where Ricky Nelson changed his name to Rick Nelson. “Hello Mary Lou,” has a great rockabilly feel. The song was a big hit for Ricky Nelson as it broke the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10 in 1961. The song has been covered by multiple artists including Creedence Clearwater Revival on their album Mardi Gras. “Hello Mary Lou, Goodbye Heart,” was written by Gene Pitney and Cayet Mangiaracina. Check out James Burton’s great guitar solo on this song. It was way ahead of its time.
# 1 – Garden Party
This is one of those songs that when you listen to it again after 40 years have passed, the lyrics just seem to make so much more sense. In fact, the lyrics are actually quite brilliant. “Garden Party,” was Rick Nelson’s first top 10 hit in 11 years. Many people argued that this song sounded nothing like Rick Nelson’s music in the 60s and 50s. Of course it didn’t, it was 1972. Did Paul McCartney’s “Band on The Run,” sound like “Please Please Me?” I don’t think so. However, this fabulous song about a reunion concert at Madison Square Garden became a monster hit in 72. Most people had no idea what it was about. However, that didn’t matter because the song had a great hook with lyrics that sounded like they had universal meaning. It fit so perfectly in 1972.
Top 10 Ricky Nelson Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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