Rick Nelson

Songs by Ricky

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By the summer of 1959, a little more than two years into his performing career, 19-year-old Ricky Nelson had put together a regular band consisting of guitarist James Burton, pianist Gene Garf, bass player James Kirkland, and drummer Richie Frost (with the Jordanaires brought in for background vocals on recordings), and he had what amounted to house songwriters. Brothers Johnny and Dorsey Burnette, separately and together, had written his hits "Waitin' in School," "Believe What You Say," and "It's Late," all up-tempo rockabilly-tinged numbers, while Baker Knight contributed the lighter hits "Lonesome Town," "I Got a Feeling," and "Never Be Anyone Else But You." These composers had just written Nelson's latest double-sided Top Ten single, "Just a Little Too Much" (by Johnny Burnette)/"Sweeter Than You" (by Knight), and it served as the anchor for his fourth album, Songs by Ricky. For the LP, the Burnettes also brought in "You're So Fine," "Don't Leave Me," "A Long Vacation," and "I've Been Thinkin'," while Knight's additional tracks were "You'll Never Know What You're Missin'" and "One Minute to One." The result was a consistent record by a writing and performing team at the peak of its powers, everyone contributing to an overall sound that was a rhythmic, smooth development on the kind of raw rockabilly invented in Memphis by the original artists at Sun Records. Nelson & co.'s take on the style never worked up quite as much of a sweat, but they clearly had their hearts in the right place, and Nelson had turned into a supple vocalist with a sure sense of the material. Occasionally, the songs leaned a bit too much to teen sentiments, but that was in keeping with the trend of the times, which was leading away from rock to softer sounds.

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