Nelsons connect generations, audiences in Mt. Gretna
For the Nelson family, music runs deep.
Their legacy began with the success of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, stars of the popular sitcom “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.”
The next generation promised to up the ante, as their son, Ricky Nelson, skyrocketed onto American stages as a teen idol in the 1950’s. Getting his start on his parents’ sitcom, he soon began recording the music from which his career would be crafted.
With dozens of hit songs, including “Lonesome Town,” “Believe What You Say” and “Hello Mary Lou,” alongside a number of film appearances, Ricky Nelson found a dear place in the heart of the American public.
His twin sons, Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, are paying homage to his legacy with their show “Ricky Nelson Remembered.” The show comes to the Mt. Gretna Playhouse on Thursday, August 11 at 7 p.m.
Performing is no stranger to the brothers.
“We started out when we were really, really young,” said Gunnar Nelson.
He recalled being 2 years old, sitting on an apple crate and watching his father perform on stage.
“That was when I made the connection that this is what I want to do,” said Nelson.
A few years late, at the age of 5, Nelson acquired his first drum set. By the age of 11, he had had his first recording session, and by the age of 12, he was gigging across Los Angeles.
His brother followed a parallel path.
“When I got a drum set, Matt got a bass,” said Nelson.
Since then, they’ve conquered the music industry together, performing together in various groups. This twin power, Nelson explained, is what has set them apart and kept them going.
“We’ve always had that friendship,” he said.
The two formed the band Nelson, which met with success with its 1990 album “After the Rain.” The album included the song “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection,” a No. 1 hit.
Nelson explained that the two were often asked to perform their father’s songs, but it wasn’t until after a backstage conversation while touring with Styx and Peter Frampton that they came up with the concept of Ricky Nelson Remembered.
“That started about 10 years ago. Since then, we’ve honed and developed the show,” said Nelson.
He explained that audiences will get “the hits they want to hear,” as well as the personal and social context behind them, through multimedia performances.
“What’s so much more than the songs themselves, is that they get the stories behind them,” said Nelson.
A family anecdote passed down from his grandmother, he explained, is that the family has never been in the music business, but rather the “connection business.” That’s exactly the way the twins view the show.
“It’s really a story that rings true with America,” said Nelson.
In a sense, the story of Ricky Nelson Remembered becomes the story not only of Ricky Nelson, but of the era he symbolized.
“It’s kind of like a time machine to a really great time in America,” said Nelson.
Fans of the third generation of Nelson will also enjoy the show.
“I think that if someone has only grown up with our stuff, it’s a pleasant surprise, because it’s a different kind of music,” said Nelson.
Some advice from his father, he explained, was to ‘”keep some sense of humor, because you’ll need it in this business.” The brothers have made sure to do this, as well as maintain their own unique style and personality while honoring their father.
“This is not a tribute show, it’s a celebration. It’s a show we do because we love to, and not because we have to,” he said.
The musician also had some kind parting words for fans of himself and his brother, his father, and his grandparents.
“Thank you for being wonderful supporters, and allowing our family to do what we love for three generations,” said Nelson.
For ticket information, visit www.matthewandgunnarnelson.com/ricky-nelson-remembered.