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Tribute to Ricky Nelson

Aired December 27, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Ricky Nelson, the one time teen idol, claimed by tragedy, remembered by his famous family 20 years after his shocking death. With us to share intimate memories of the brother, the father and the artist they knew, Ricky's brother David Nelson, like Rick featured in TV's "Ozzie and Harriet Show" and David's wife Yvonne; Ricky's daughter actress Tracy Nelson; his twin sons, musicians Gunnar and Matthew Nelson; Ricky's youngest son Sam Nelson; also a music legendary guitarist James Burton, who played on some of Ricky Nelson's classic songs; and Glen Campbell, the country pop star who was Ricky's friend. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
He was killed in a plane crash December 31, 1985, 20 years ago. And, two decades after his untimely death, Ricky Nelson may be rocking up the charts again. The youngest son of TV's icon "Ozzie and Harriet" died in a tragic plane crash on New Year's Eve. He and his band were en route to Dallas to play a gig.

Being released today is Ricky Nelson Greatest Hits on CD and Ricky Nelson Sings on DVD. Both are out simultaneously. They're companion pieces to the PBC documentary special airing this month and there you see the covers. David, what was your involvement with this?

DAVID NELSON, BROTHER OF RICKY NELSON: Nothing really except to OK the fact that they could use my brother's likeness and, no, I had nothing to do with it whatsoever.

KING: Are all of you just happy to be participants but none of you involved in the production?

GUNNAR NELSON, MUSICIAN, RICKY NELSON'S SON: Oh, actually the Rick Nelson Company was actively involved in it but it's always been a family affair to actually remember him. I can't believe it's been 20 years.

TRACY NELSON, DAUGHTER OF RICKY NELSON: I know I can't either. That's shocking.

KING: What is the Rick Nelson Company?

G. NELSON: The Rick Nelson Company is basically the four Rick Nelson children and we work hand-in-hand with Uncle David to basically perpetuate his legacy and this is the first time ever that all of the video performances from the end of the "Ozzie and Harriet Show" have been available on DVD.

KING: This often puzzled me, Matthew. MATTHEW NELSON, MUSICIAN, SON OF RICKY NELSON: Yes.

KING: He was Ricky. He was Ricky Nelson. He was always Ricky Nelson. When did he become Rick?

M. NELSON: Well, he was always pop to me so, you know.

KING: But when did he publicly become Rick?

M. NELSON: Well, he became Rick on his 21st birthday. I believe it was just kind of stepping off into manhood really.

KING: He was always called Ricky.

M. NELSON: Everybody called him Ricky. I mean people that I meet daily now still know him really more as Ricky and...

KING: And the albums say Ricky right?

M. NELSON: The albums say Ricky and he went back to calling himself Ricky right before he passed away because he met Carl Perkins, his hero, who turned to him once and said "Well, Ricky, it looks like we're the last guys here left." And he said, "Well, if it's cool enough for Carl Perkins, it's cool enough for me."

KING: Let's go back, James you played with him a long time, right?


KING: How did you two hook up?

BURTON: Well, in 1957 I was doing a movie called "Carnival Rock" with a country singer Bob Luman and we were out here doing a rehearsal at Imperial Records for Bob's next single and Ricky came in on business. They were both on the same label at Imperial Records. And, it was great. He came in and met us and stayed for a long time and that was one.

KING: And you, Yvonne, married into the family right?


KING: Did you know Ricky well?

Y. NELSON: Very well. We all shared the same beach in Laguna, so I really met Ozzie. Ozzie introduced me to David. That was 35 years ago.

D. NELSON: That's right.

KING: Now, Tracy, when did your grandparents pass?


D. NELSON: Oh, it was '75.

T. NELSON: '75 and Harriet more recently, Ozzie had cancer back then and Harriet more recently. You know, Larry, you were talking about our involvement with the new release and if I can I just want to say that what was great about doing it was we got a chance to put together a lot of kind of really great memories of him, really personal ones, you know, about his sense of humor and stuff that people don't really know about -- about pop, so we were pretty involved with that.

KING: Sam, how old were you when he died?

SAM NELSON, RICKY NELSON'S SON: I was eleven. I was eleven. I was very young.

KING: You were the youngest son?


KING: And, Glen Campbell, how did you hook up with Ricky?

GLEN CAMPBELL, COUNTRY STAR: Through the recording studios I got to play on Rick's albums and to get to sing harmony with him. It was a lot of fun. Rick Nelson was a -- he was an incredible human being. I loved Rick.

And actually it all started out, Ozzie fired Joe Osbourne (ph), the bass player and Rick was going on a tour of Japan and the Orient and he said, "Glen" because I'd been doing Rick's sessions, he said "Why don't you come along on the tour with him"? I said, "Oh, fine." He said, "But you got to play bass" and I learned how to play bass real quick because I wanted to go to the Orient with Ricky Nelson.

KING: Now let's discuss the tragedy. David, where were you? How did you learn of it?

D. NELSON: I was actually standing in the kitchen of our house in Encino and I heard something on the radio and I didn't want to believe it at first. I went over and I turned the television on and it had announced that the plane had gone down and I went and got Yvonne.

KING: Did you know he was flying that night?

D. NELSON: I didn't, no, I did not. As a matter of fact, he almost didn't because the plane was not really in great shape.

KING: And he didn't like flying right?

D. NELSON: He didn't, no he didn't. I remember him going to a psychotherapy session to try to get himself to fly.

KING: What a weird way, Yvonne, to hear it on the radio.

Y. NELSON: Well, you know, it's funny, not funny but I had just hung up the phone with Harriet and she was going to drive up to spend New Year's Eve with us and hung up the phone and our granddaughter was staying with us. And, Jennifer came running in and said "Grandma, Uncle Rick just went down in a plane."

I said, "Honey" and then they told David and had David call his mom right away. And then I said to David, "You've got to go down and get her." Now we were (INAUDIBLE). He left and I thought what did I do?

KING: How did she handle it?

D. NELSON: Not really well. Also at the same time the phone rang. I picked it up and it was Johnny Cash and it shocked me. I had never -- I had never met Johnny before. Rick and I were both big fans but he called wanting to talk to my mother and I was on the way out. Yvonne took the phone and he must have called back three or four times while I went down to Laguna to get her.

KING: Tracy, where were you?

T. NELSON: We all heard it in a similar way, Larry.

KING: Where were you?

T. NELSON: I was in Colorado actually on a ski vacation and, you know, one of those "We interrupt this program" things came on and...

KING: Television?

T. NELSON: Yes, and it was really surreal from then on in. The whole thing just from that start just became more and more bizarre.

KING: It's first disbelief, right?

T. NELSON: Yes and actually he didn't want to go on that flight and my brothers, Gunnar, well these two guys were supposed to go with him and at the last minute he said he didn't want them to go and...

M. NELSON: Yes, I really feel that he -- I found out the same way. I was in my car driving and they had just played a couple of his songs and the disc jockey came on and sounded like he was crying and announced that Rick Nelson has just been killed in a plane crash with his band. And, I actually lost consciousness. The next thing I knew I was at a friend's house and they were just telling me to go home.

The hardest part about it was that we were supposed to be on the plane and right before the accident -- it was New Year's Eve so we wanted to be with him and he said, "Guys, I want you to fly and meet me in Dallas" where he was on his way. He did a couple show before Dallas.

KING: And you were driving there?

M. NELSON: No, I was actually just driving to a friend's house because I said to him, you know, "Pop, I'll wait for you to come back because the whole point is to be together" and all I can say is looking back on it he always wanted us to be with him, so I don't really know if he got a premonition or something like that.

KING: How did you hear about it Gunnar?

G. NELSON: Same thing, actually I walked into a friend's house and they were -- it was New Year's Eve so everybody was having a party and the room just went quiet all at once and my best friend's father called me Rick and I thought that was just really strange. And he said, "Rick, you got to get home." I said, "Mr. Willen (ph) that's really weird," went home and as soon as I walked in there was Dan Rather and the footage from the plane crash.

KING: We'll talk with the others as well about that tragic day, the circumstances around it, the release of these new DVDs, a salute to the late, hard to say that, Ricky Nelson. Don't go away.



RICKY NELSON: I don't see myself growing older. I've never known what it is to be -- to act like a grownup. I mean how do you -- it's kind of like all of a sudden you're supposed to be 30 years old or whatever it is and somebody says, OK, now you're a grownup.


KING: You may find it hard to believe but he was very close to Elvis Presley in record sales, right? I mean he was a major, major star. He came from a very famous family. Let's check the rest when they learned of the news. You were the youngest, Sam, where were you? How did you hear about it?

S. NELSON: Same as these guys, I just come home from a friend's house and I walked in and all the televisions were on and there was a fiery plane crash on TV and I had no, you know, idea of what I was watching and my mother rushed into the room and said "Turn that off immediately" and I turned it off.

And I said, "What's going on"? She was really frantic and I followed her around the house and she said, "Pop has been in an accident and his plane went down." And I said, "Pop"? And I got confused because I also called my grandfather Pop and, you know, as things happen when stuff like that is going on, I said "Why was he in an airplane"? It turned out it was Pop and it kind of -- it hit me.

KING: Where's your mum?

S. NELSON: Right now?

KING: Yes.

S. NELSON: She's in New Mexico.

KING: Were they divorced?

S. NELSON: Yes. T. NELSON: She's in Santa Fe.

KING: That's a cruel way to learn of a death.

T. NELSON: It is. It's not fair.

KING: Just to get a phone call.

T. NELSON: It shouldn't happen.

KING: Jim, where were you, James Burton?

BURTON: I was on my way to Vegas and actually when I drove in to the driveway at my home there the phone was ringing, so I ran in the house and got the phone and it was my son's wife. And, she said "Do you have the TV on"? I said, "No, I just walked in." And she said, "Ricky Nelson just -- they were in a plane crash" and I turned the TV on that instant, just devastated.

KING: And, Glen Campbell, how did you learn?

CAMPBELL: Over the news. I was really at the -- I think of Rick a lot now but I'll tell you to get to work with Rick Nelson I wish everybody could have and they'd have really known what a really nice human being that he was. He was just, he was terrific and he was always great for me because I always kidded him.

KING: Glen, how good a performer was he?

CAMPBELL: Rick was -- he was fabulous. I mean he was -- he went on the stage. He was the Rick Nelson you would think that you were watching the TV show kind of. He was that -- he was just good and he had charisma. He had the Elvis' kind of charisma.

KING: And he also made fun of himself did he not with "Garden Party"?


KING: That's when he, what, he was booked in Madison Square Garden, didn't draw well and did a song, a major hit song about it right?


T. NELSON: Yes, I don't think it was so much that he was making fun of himself. I think what happened was really devastating for him originally because he walked out. He had originally signed to do a revival, rock and roll revival with Chuck Berry and the Shirelles and kind of reluctantly got talked into it.

And when he got there he didn't realize it was a giant malt shop that people were dressed in their poodle skirts and they were there to see the '50s, you know, and here was this guy with long hair and bellbottoms and he started singing his new stuff and Dylan songs. Dylan was a friend and he sang a lot of his songs and people started booing.

And, you know, pop was a really shy, I mean you know anybody that knows him he's really shy and sensitive and he got booed off stage, so the song is essentially kind of his own coming of age, the point being, you know, you can't please everyone. You got to please yourself.

KING: But, Gunnar, it turned into a great song.

G. NELSON: Oh, it's a great story.

KING: One of his biggest hits.

G. NELSON: Absolutely. He spent his whole life pretty much fitting into a certain mold and that was a time when he had totally reinvented himself. The era of the singer/songwriter with Bob Dylan and with the Beatles and stuff had happened and a lot of his contemporaries from back in the day really had no place to go. But he totally reinvented himself and learned how to write songs.

KING: David, let's deal with it. What about the circumstances of the crash, rumors that they were smoking, there were drugs on the plane and the fire caught on? What happened for real?

D. NELSON: A strange situation because that started from a newspaper. I believe it was "The Washington Post."

T. NELSON: It was, yes.

D. NELSON: And somebody had asked one of the investigators of the crash...

KING: Because the pilot and co-pilot lived right?

T. NELSON: Yes, they did.

D. NELSON: Yes but...

KING: There was nothing to it?

D. NELSON: Nothing to it, no.

T. NELSON: The plane had had trouble before. It was a -- it originally...

KING: DC-3 right?

T. NELSON: Yes, and it had belonged to Jerry Lee Lewis originally and it had problems with the heater and Pop, as you said, was really scared to fly so he would call it -- they called it the Flying Bus because it was so slow.

And he'd say, "Well, it's slow and steady, you know. They used it in World War II and it's the safest plane in the sky" but it had a problem with this heater and they had gotten stuck several times before on the way to Farm Aid once on the runway. And they tried to fix one of the -- the pilots tried to, you know, they were trying to fix the heater that was broken kind of mid-flight and it caused the problem.

KING: Did they subsequently, did you meet with the pilots?

T. NELSON: Oh, yes, Fergie (ph).

M. NELSON: Fergie (INAUDIBLE) the co-pilot is...

T. NELSON: Ken Ferguson is a friend.

M. NELSON: a friend and I heard that Brad Rank (ph), the actual pilot of the plane has passed away ironically enough in a plane.

KING: And they all ascertained that there was no drugs in the plane?

T. NELSON: Is that true, Matt?

M. NELSON: Yes, that's what I heard.

KING: Boy that really must have hit the family hard, not only to have a death but, Gunnar then to have rumors.

G. NELSON: That was the worst thing about it, Larry, to be honest with you is that we were all reeling from finding out the information the way we all did and it's very surreal, so we're all kind of walking around in a fog trying to keep it together.

And then you go home and you go home to the home that you shared with your father and people are shoving mikes in your face saying, you know, "How do you feel about your father's death? What about these allegations?" And there was no basis in fact at all to it.

T. NELSON: You know I remember Matt calling me one night about six months after it happened and they were still showing that same footage on the news and I answered the phone. I said, "hello" and Matt just said "Why? Why are they doing this?"

M. NELSON: Well why him?

KING: They kept showing the plane?


M. NELSON: He was -- he was the sweetest man I've ever met. I mean he was -- I never saw him say no to anybody that came up and asked for an autograph or wanted to talk to him. He always took time for people and it was -- it was shocking to say the least but I have to say that I actually, I really wish I could remember who it was.

I was watching the news one night, this is about a month into it, and the newscaster actually put his copy down and said "I refuse to read this. This was a good man and this is -- this is not something I want to be a part of." KING: Let me get a break. We'll come back. We'll take your calls at the bottom of the hour. They're both released today, Ricky Nelson Greatest Hits on CD and on DVD Ricky Nelson Sings. And we're proud to sort of kick this off tonight and here is Ricky singing "Garden Party".




KING: Ozzie with that perpetual crew cut, the high crew cut. You married into the family.


KING: What kind of brother-in-law was he?

Y. NELSON: Rick, oh he was wonderful.

KING: Funny?

Y. NELSON: Oh, funny, so funny and David and Rick together were hysterical.

KING: There were a comedy team?

Y. NELSON: But they had -- they both had...

T. NELSON: They were. They were a comedy team.

D. NELSON: Martin and Lewis.

Y. NELSON: And really fun but Rick was sweet.

KING: Jim, you were saying during the break, James that Rick Nelson made the first music video?

BURTON: That's correct "Traveling Man."

KING: Who came up with the idea?

BURTON: It was just...

D. NELSON: Ozzie.

BURTON: ...a great song and...

KING: Where did they show it?

M. NELSON: Ozzie actually came up with it.

KING: There's the video.

M. NELSON: Yes. See they have the... G. NELSON: Conceptual bits.

M. NELSON: ...the conceptual bits going on behind him.

KING: What was there? There was no MTV was there?

T. NELSON: No, he was first.

KING: So where would he show these?

M. NELSON: On the "Ozzie and Harriet Show."

T. NELSON: At the end of the show.

KING: What kind of dad was he?

M. NELSON: You know he -- I think he made it up as he went along. I say, you know, he was a, as he said in the clip before, I think he really didn't know how to be a dad so he was just a great friend and...

T. NELSON: He had so much integrity though and we learned so much about that from him just honesty and integrity and he was just a really good man, you know. You could always rely on that don't you think?

M. NELSON: Yes, he had grace. That's a good way of putting it.

T. NELSON: Yes, yes, that is a good way to put it.

KING: What was he like when you were a kid?

S. NELSON: Well, he was gone a lot of the time so I -- I got to see him very infrequently. I saw him on Christmas Eve. That was our big night and I -- I looked forward to that night every year. That's why this time is actually particularly poignant for this release and everything else because it's -- he's really kind of close. It feels like he's very close right now.

KING: Are all of you close to your mum?

M. NELSON: Yes, relatively, you know.


M. NELSON: I think getting more so as time goes on, yes.

KING: Really?


KING: Has she remarried?

M. NELSON: Remarried and divorced so now she's -- she's single and she's a painter. She's a -- she's an unschooled painter and does real well with that. KING: And Ricky was single when he died?

T. NELSON: He was. His fiancee was on the plane with him, Helen Blair (ph).

KING: Did you know her well too?

T. NELSON: He did. We did.

M. NELSON: Yes, we did. Well they were all family. The whole band was with him at the time.

KING: How many died on the plane?

M. NELSON: Gosh, was that eight?

T. NELSON: That's...

M. NELSON: Let me see. There was Pop, Helen, Andy Chapin the piano player, Bobby Neal (ph) guitar, Ricky (INAUDIBLE) on drums.

T. NELSON: Ricky (INAUDIBLE), Pat Woodward.

M. NELSON: And Pat Woodward.

KING: You guys, Glen do you think a lot about when you fly you fly so much when you work the way you do?

CAMPBELL: Yes, it's getting to bother me a little bit. You know, I think the way airplanes are today though I think it's probably the safest way to go and it's definitely the easiest way to get around the country so they say.

KING: Do all of you fly?


T. NELSON: We do. You know, we were just at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because they're doing a special exhibit for Pop, a 20- year thing and they have a film about all the sort of rock icons who passed away early and it was amazing to see how many went down in aircrafts in planes.

KING: Because they flew in snow. They flew in bad weather.


M. NELSON: Sure.

KING: These dates they wouldn't take the bus right?

T. NELSON: Right.

M. NELSON: Right.

T. NELSON: Right. S. NELSON: I'm flying tonight actually.

T. NELSON: OK, we won't talk about it anymore Sam.


KING: Where are you going?

S. NELSON: I'm going to Minnesota.

G. NELSON: Minnesota?

KING: Why?

S. NELSON: To see a girlfriend. My girlfriend and her family are there.

KING: You got a girl? I keep thinking of you as eleven.


T. NELSON: We all do, Larry.


T. NELSON: We all do.

KING: He's still the kid right?

T. NELSON: He's a kid but he's a live one. You know Sam said something about the DVD so, you know, in the DVD he actually said "I didn't really know Pop as well as I wanted to but everything that I needed to know I can -- I can get from his songs." That's really true. He really especially later when he was writing his own stuff he really spoke of himself and his life in his music.

KING: How well could Ricky play guitar, James?

BURTON: Well, when we first started playing together he knew three chords and he would actually -- I got him into playing using a (INAUDIBLE). I said, "Rick, it's OK to play in the key of E but you need to change the keys once in a while" so we'd have to slide the (INAUDIBLE) up and do that but he got to be a great guitar player.

KING: Glen, did he get better?

CAMPBELL: Yes, he did. (INAUDIBLE) are great.

KING: We have two of the masters here tonight in Campbell and Burton, two of the great guitarists ever.

T. NELSON: Absolutely.

KING: We'll take a break and when we come back we'll reintroduce the panel and we'll go to your phone calls. Don't go away.




R. NELSON: It's hard, you know. It's hard to know what to do. I mean, there's always this sort of little kind of guilt thing involved about being away, which makes it very difficult to keep that together.


KING: Tracy reminds me the Nelsons are the only family in show business history to have three generations of number one hits. Ozzie Nelson, Ricky Nelson and Nelson, the two boys, Gunnar and Matthew. By the way, I'm told to ask, what happened to your hair?

M. NELSON: Well, we still got some, thank God. But got a little shorter.

G. NELSON: Yeah.

KING: Now, before we go to calls, let's re-introduce our guests today. In tribute to Ricky Nelson just released today from Capitol, the new CD collection, Ricky Nelson's "Greatest Hits," and the DVD "Ricky Nelson Sings." And some of the video clips you've seen during the show are from that DVD.

All our guests are here in Los Angeles. David and Yvonne Nelson, Ricky Nelson's brother and Rick's sister-in-law. Tracy Nelson is Rick Nelson's daughter and actress. Gunnar Nelson is Rick Nelson's son, as is Matthew Nelson, Gunnar's twin brother. They're not identical twins, are you? Your hair is different, so it throws me. And you don't dress the same.

M. NELSON: Technicality. We split from the same (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And the name of their act was Nelson. Sam Nelson, Rick Nelson's younger son, is a musician, works for Capitol Records. James Burton is the legendary Rock'n' Roll Hall of Fame guitarist. He played and recorded with Ricky Nelson, as well as Presley, Sinatra, Dylan, Cash, Harrison. Other than that, nobody. And also here in L.A. is Glen Campbell, Rick Nelson's friend and music contemporary. And he played guitar on several of Nelson's albums.

Ricky Nelson died 20 years ago New Year's Eve in a plane crash.

Let's go to some calls. Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. I'm glad to talk to all of you.


KING: What's the question?

CALLER: And my question is that I know that Elvis was a big fan of Rick's, and I'd like to know if there was a friendship there.

KING: All right. Did they know each other? Who wants to grab that? Tracy?

T. NELSON: Yes, they did know each other. In fact, pop talked about the first time he met Elvis. He was really his idol, you know, he was really afraid to meet him. And when he walked in the room, Elvis ran over to him and said, "Ricky, I love your show!" So from then on...

G. NELSON: How is your mom? How is dad?

T. NELSON: Yeah, how's Dave? That was friendship from then on.

KING: That show was a big hit, right?

M. NELSON: Oh, yeah.

G. NELSON: The "Ozzie and Harriet" show?

KING: It was a big hit on radio.

G. NELSON: It ran for 14 years.

T. NELSON: You know, that show is like part of the American lexicon, I think. It's ...

KING: Is it on TV Land now, do they show it?

G. NELSON: No, not yet. But we're working on that one, Larry.

KING: And another thing. We ought to get him -- Rick was inducted into the Rock'n' Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. And won a lifetime achievement Grammy, right?

G. NELSON: We're looking for that. This is the 20th year, as you were mentioning, of his passing. And we all wanted to thank you, too, in the sense that we're coming up on New Year's Eve. An New Year's Eve to all of us has kind of been bittersweet ever since that happened 20 years ago. But this is really all about celebrating his life, his time and his music. And he was a great guy, and someone great to be related to, selfishly speaking.

But this is going to be a big year. We're actually hoping after selling 35 million records and 100 million singles, he never got a Grammy. And it would be really nice to see him have a lifetime achievement Grammy.

KING: Is New Year's Eve kind of muted for you?

G. NELSON: It is. I can't help but feel, you know. I always light a candle for my dad.

KING: Terrible anniversary.

G. NELSON: Yeah, it is.

KING: You don't party, do you?

G. NELSON: I really try not to. I, actually, what I want to do this New Year's Eve is just find a very small venue, and, with my acoustic guitar, sing songs for the entire night. That would be -- that would make me happy. That would be good.

KING: Where is dad buried?

G. NELSON: Well, not where he...

M. NELSON: Forest Lawn.

G. NELSON: Yeah.

M. NELSON: Forest Lawn.

G. NELSON: Forest Lawn?

T. NELSON: His ashes are at Forest Lawn.

KING: Appalachia, Virginia. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry.


CALLER: My question is for Tracy, Matthew, Gunnar or Sam. What is their fondest memory of their father or the best advice they received from him?

KING: Great question. We'll start with Tracy.

T. NELSON: Well, my fondest memory is he had a music room right below my bedroom. And I would fall asleep lying on the floor of my room with my pillow and my blanket, because he had an old honky-tonk piano that he'd play just all night long.

KING: Are you the oldest child?

T. NELSON: I am, yeah. And I just remember falling asleep to that music.

KING: Did you have a daddy/daughter thing with him, that special relationship?

T. NELSON: We had a really close relationship. We were figuring it all out as we went along. You know, there was a lot of catching up to do when he came home. But as I said, I respected him then and respect him now, just for his integrity.

KING: Did you get along with your grandparents?

T. NELSON: Yeah, I did.

KING: Ozzie died at age 68. His parents had done vaudeville, right? Mom and dad.

T. NELSON: And Harriet...

KING: Harriet died of heart failure at age 85 in 1994. And they met as a singer and a band singer, right?

D. NELSON: That's right. He hired her.

KING: Fondest memory, Gunnar?

G. NELSON: Well, there is a tradition in the Nelson family, where on your birthday, you were going to get a whipped cream pie in the face. You didn't know when it was coming, but it was going to happen. And my father was the...

T. NELSON: King.

G. NELSON: ... world champion pie placer. You didn't throw pies. If you threw a pie, people would duck. So he actually showed us the art of pie placement...

KING: And what is that art?

G. NELSON: Well, you have to do it...

T. NELSON: Finesse. Finesse.

G. NELSON: Yeah, finesse.

KING: Everybody is a little weird.

G. NELSON: Yeah, right. Right, yes, OK. My 13th birthday, our 13th birthday, he invited us down to a gig he had in Houston, at the Astrodome. And we were walking on egg shells all day with his band there. Because they were all masters, too. You know, we were going to get it. And they let us sweat all the way up to like 11:59 at night. And I'm sitting down having a conversation with pop, and he's shaving in the hotel mirror and stuff. And we're talking for 15, 20 minutes or so, and all of a sudden, he leans over, he goes, ow, ow, like he cut himself. And I went up, pop, are you OK? He had a pie hidden in the sink for 20 minutes, and just turned, gotcha. That was my fondest memory.

KING: Is it just whipped cream or is it a pie?

G. NELSON: No, it was just whipped cream.

KING: Yeah.

T. NELSON: Yeah.

KING: Your fondest memory, Matthew?

M. NELSON: On our 12th birthday, we were told we had a dentist appointment. And it wasn't a great birthday. So I was told to go inside with my brother and get ready to get the novocaine. And we walked in, and I saw my father waving from behind some glass. And it was actually a recording studio. And our birthday present was to record the first song we'd ever written. And that night...

T. NELSON: The Pointer Sisters.

M. NELSON: ... the Pointer Sisters came in and sang backup for us. His guitar player at the time played with us. And everybody had a party in the control room.

G. NELSON: That was cool.

M. NELSON: And my mother definitely knew that she created monsters inadvertently. You know, so.

KING: But that says a lot about your father.

M. NELSON: Yeah, he was a great guy.

T. NELSON: And our mom, too.

KING: Sam? The baby, what's your fondest memory?

S. NELSON: My fondest memory actually came after he passed away. About four years ago, these guys for Christmas gave me a CD. And the story goes, he had a bedside bureau that he kept keepsakes, special keepsakes. And he had a few items in there. And some of them were these micro cassettes. And one of these micro cassettes turns out to have been -- it said "A Sam is Born." And basically it's about 11 minutes long, and it's a handheld tape recorder of my father walking into the house pretty much the moment I was born and telling these guys, you have a new baby brother. And it's basically the discussion, the discourse that goes on between everybody.

KING: Twenty years, David, you still miss him?

D. NELSON: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

KING: Talk about him a lot?

Y. NELSON: Oh, a lot. He was just the most wonderful, entertaining -- he would walk into a room and clear -- how did he clear his throat?

D. NELSON: My father?

Y. NELSON: Yeah. Until he got everyone's attention. And then he would tell these wonderful stories.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more and include more phone calls as we salute the release of the DVD and the CD. Don't go away.


H. NELSON: Come on, boys.

D. NELSON: Well, good night, mom.

H. NELSON: Good night, Dave.

D. NELSON: Good night, Rick.

R. NELSON: Good night, David.

D. NELSON: Good night, pop.

O. NELSON: Good night, David.

R. NELSON: Good night, mom.

H. NELSON: Good night, Rick.

R. NELSON: Good night, pop.

O. NELSON: Good night, Rick.

R. NELSON: Good night, David.

D. NELSON: Good night, Rick.


H. NELSON: Good night, dear.

O. NELSON: Good night, Rick.

R. NELSON: Good night, pop.

O. NELSON: Good night, Dave.

D. NELSON: Good night, pa.

H. NELSON: Good night, everybody.

D. NELSON: Good night, ma.



KING: Great Mel Torme song. James Burton has a cute story about Elvis and Rick.

BURTON: You know, they played football together a lot, and Ricky always got beat.

KING: They had teams?

BURTON: Teams, yes. And Ricky had a lot of Rams, guys that played.

KING: L.A. Rams. BURTON: Yes, they were friends and Ricky called them up and said, "Hey, you know, you guys come and help me out." So they got together and they went and played, and of course, you know who won.

KING: Elvis, that must have been an big interesting afternoon for Elvis. So Elvis went out and bought the Rams. Houston, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hello?

KING: Yes. Go ahead.

CALLER: My question is for Tracy.

KING: Yes.

CALLER: I watch a lot of your movies that you've been in. Do you have any more movies or shows coming up?

T. NELSON: Oh, thank you for asking. What's your name?

KING: I didn't get the name.

T. NELSON: I -- right now, I've got two little kids. And well, one of them's not quite little, she's 13 and a four-year-old, so I've been pretty busy raising them. But I do those Lifetime movies now and again.

G. NELSON: The queen of the Lifetime movies.

KING: The queen of Lifetime movies.

T. NELSON: Well, I don't know, queen, I don't know.

KING: You've done a lot of T.V.

T. NELSON: Yes, I have.

KING: Did you always want to act, not sing?

T. NELSON: I can't sing, Larry. I would if I could.

G. NELSON: That's not true. She played the part of Rizzo in Grease on Broadway. She did just fine.

KING: You did Rizzo?

T. NELSON: I did, believe it or not. But everyone did Rizzo, so that's not saying much.

KING: But you have to sing.

G. NELSON: Yes, she learned how to sing in a month. It was great.

KING: Harrodsburg, Kentucky. CALLER: Hi, everyone. My question is for Tracy. Does your dad still come to you in dreams?

T. NELSON: Well, I had a really interesting experience where I had a dream shortly after he died that he was calling me on the phone and he was telling me that I was sick and I needed to go to the doctor.

And I was feeling a little tired and that was really my only symptom. And for about a year I was having these dreams. And they got more and more insistent. And finally in the dream, he said, "I don't know what's wrong with you, but you're very sick and you need to go to the doctor." And I finally -- they finally found that I had cancer, I had Hodgkin's Disease. This is right after he died.

KING: Wow.


KING: It's all gone now?

T. NELSON: It is. Oh yes, a long time ago. Two kids in between, like I said.

KING: They got it early.

T. NELSON: Yes, yes.

KING: Glen, I always meant to ask you, you're such a famous performer with so many hits, why do you play background for people?

CAMPBELL: Oh, because I enjoyed it. I enjoyed playing guitar. Basically I'm a guitar player. And singing didn't start until later. But you know, and getting to sing harmony with people, it was such a pleasure to go in a studio, you know.

KING: Because you're a major act. And major acts normally don't go out and sing harmony behind somebody.

CAMPBELL: Well, I wasn't a major act then. But I tell you, singing harmony with Rick was sure a lot of fun. But I'll do that anyway. I'll go in and sing harmony with people on a session, go play on them.

KING: Rainsville, Alabama, hello.

CALLER: Larry, thanks for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: We're close to Guntersville, Alabama, where Ricky flew out that night. I was wondering if any of the kids spoke with him prior to him leaving. And also Pat Upton, I know I think played with Ricky's son. And I just wonder if they stay in contact with him.

KING: All right, first, do you know Pat Upton? G. NELSON: I do. As a matter of fact, I actually played a show with Pat Upton two years ago. I went to Guntersville for the first time and I saw the last club that pop played at.

KING: Was it strange to be there?

G. NELSON: It was.

KING: It's got your name.

G. NELSON: Well, you know, it was a little weird for me. But you know, what's really great, being from the family that we're, I feel a little bit selfish because unlike a lot of people who have lost people that they have loved, we get constant loving reminders that they're still around. We get the music.

KING: How soon before he died did you talk to your father?

M. NELSON: It had been about two days. You know, the last memory that I have of talking to him was him saying, "Don't go on this plane trip. Meet me in Dallas." And I said, OK, we'll just stay here and meet you when you come back.

KING: How long did you, Gunnar?

G. NELSON: It was about two days. I have to say, I was kind of upset, to be honest with you. I was looking forward to actually spending New Year's Eve with him, and we'd never ridden on a plane before. And he said, "Go down there commercial."

T. NELSON: About the same, we had a Christmas party and everybody was kind of there and celebrating. That was my last memory of him.

KING: Sam, you remember?

S. NELSON: As well, that was the big night for me.

KING: Dave?

D. NELSON: I talked to him on the phone every once in awhile.

KING: Yvonne, did you talk to him?

Y. NELSON: Christmas Eve.

KING: At the top of the hour, Anderson Cooper is off this week. And sitting in is the lovely and talented Heidi Collins. So we're calling it "H.C. 360." What's up tonight?

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Larry, nice to see you. Coming up on 360, we are following up on a story we showed you last night here on CNN. A man in New Orleans wielding a knife is surrounded by police, then shot eight-to-10 times and killed.

Police say he lunged at them, forcing them to shoot. But did they need to kill him? Could they have perhaps used taser guns instead? And just hot are police trained to deal with people who are armed but will not take orders? We're going to go ahead and look at all the angles, as always, Larry, tonight on 360.

KING: That's Heidi Collins sitting in for Anderson Keeper on "A.C. 360" tonight at 10:00 Eastern. And we'll be right back with the Nelson's.



R. NELSON: I wouldn't make anybody happy if I was home all the time. I don't know why, maybe I'm selfish or something. I don't know. But I just feel what I'm doing is what I'm doing. And I almost don't have any control over it. I wouldn't do something else very well. Because I want to do what I'm doing.


KING: Is it hard to look at him?

S. NELSON: He looks beautiful.

T. NELSON: It is harder to listen to him I think. To hear the voice.

KING: Hilo, Hawaii. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. My question is for Matthew and Gunnar. You guys performed several of your dad's songs in your shows. Which is your favorite?

M. NELSON: We're still doing that. We're playing in Connecticut. Come and see us - well, you're in Hawaii. My favorite is actually one that he wrote that I rarely pull out of the bag of tricks which is called "Easy to be Free."

I think we sang it at his eulogy. That's a very special night that I'll bring that one out.

KING: Victoria, British Columbia, hello.

CALLER: So nice to see you, your family. I grew up with all your shows. What are you doing now?

KING: Yes, what are you doing Dave?

CALLER: What do you think of the TV programs of today?

D. NELSON: I'm a director. I learned quick, because I started forgetting lines that then you become a director. So I've been doing that for the last --

KING: You watch a lot of TV today?

D. NELSON: Did I what?

KING: Did you watch a lot of sitcoms?

D. NELSON: I do. I became a commercial director for the most part.

KING: You do?

D. NELSON: And features and commercials.

KING: We'll take a break. When we come back, we'll have a little musical surprise for you. Don't go away.


KING: A lot of clips you're seeing tonight come from the new DVD. The collection is Ricky Nelson's greatest hits on CD. The DVD is "Ricky Nelson Sings." Both released today. Ricky's dead 20 years this New Year's Eve. Now we've got part of the group here have assembled as a little tribute to Ricky Nelson. Guys, go.


KING: What's it like to do his songs?

M. NELSON: You know, I miss him less. You know, we never played his songs before. We had a lot of hit records and stuff. We just didn't want to do him a disservice. But we had so many requests from people saying they grew up with the music. But selfishly speaking, I miss him less when I play his music. It keeps him around.

KING: You enjoy playing it, Glen?

CAMPBELL: I love it. I still do it, too. Travelin' Man.

KING: You play a pretty mean guitar, James.

BURTON: Thank you, sir.

KING: What kind of guitar is that?

BURTON: It's a Fender Telecaster. Telecaster.

KING: What is yours, Glen? It looks like Gene Autry's.

BURTON: I've got a same guitar, only mine is a Stratocaster.

KING: Thank you all very much. Thank David and Yvonne. Yvonne's in the other studio now. We thank her.

Tracy Nelson, Gunnar Nelson and Matthew Nelson, they're the team of Nelson. Sam Nelson, Glen Campbell and James Burton, we thank you all. You want to play a little music under me as I sort of fade out here.

And so we come to the end of another LARRY KING LIVE. Paying tribute to Ricky Nelson.

We'll be back tomorrow night. Psychics versus Skeptics.

Now this may be a first for Heidi Collins sitting in for Anderson Cooper. Music will play under her as we give her the podium as she hosts "NEWSNIGHT."

Heidi, sing it, baby.


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