DEAD: ON THIS DATE
Ricky Nelson (aged 45)
Actor, musician, singer
Eric Hilliard Nelson (May 8, 1940 – December 31, 1985) was an American rock and roll star, musician, and singer-songwriter. From age eight he starred alongside his family in the radio and television series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. In 1957 he began a long and successful career as a popular recording artist. As one of the top “teen idols” of the 1950s his fame led to a motion picture role co-starring alongside John Wayne and Dean Martin in Howard Hawks’s western feature film Rio Bravo (1959). He placed 53 songs on the Billboard Hot 100, and its predecessors, between 1957 and 1973, including “Poor Little Fool” in 1958, which was the first #1 song on Billboard magazine’s then-newly created Hot 100 chart. He recorded 19 additional Top 10 hits and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 21, 1987. In 1996 Nelson was ranked #49 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time.
DEATH: On December 26, 1985, Nelson and the band left for a three-stop tour of the southern United States. Following shows in Orlando, Florida, and Guntersville, Alabama, Nelson and band members took off from Guntersville for a New Year’s Eve extravaganza in Dallas, Texas. The plane crash-landed northeast of Dallas in De Kalb, Texas, in a cow pasture less than two miles from a landing strip, at approximately 5:14 pm. CST on December 31, 1985, hitting trees on its way down. Seven of the nine occupants were killed: Nelson and his companion, Helen Blair, 27; bass guitarist Patrick Woodward, 35; drummer Rick Intveld, 22; keyboardist Andy Chapin, 34; guitarist Bobby Neal, 38, and road manager/soundman Donald Clark Russell, 35. Pilots Ken Ferguson and Brad Rank escaped via cockpit windows, though Ferguson was severely burned.