This Page & Video below published May 8, 2015 which would of been Rick Nelson's 75th Birthday


Excerpt from the forthcoming music bio book


by Ken Spooner

©  2015 Elm & McKinley Books



...... That summer I took up with an oldies band called Flashback, to help me remember some of the good times I had missed in playing the music I grew up with. They were all hobby players, but I relived my days of practicing in the garage in the early ‘60s. Our guitar store however was floundering. We got an emergency loan to help us but it wasn’t enough. By November of ‘85 we were looking at bankruptcy. Had we been able to hold on through Christmas of ‘85 we may of made it, but I probably never would of wound up in Nashville. That would of been a bleak Christmas for us if it wasn’t for Flashback. They gave us all the money they made during December and even bought us a Christmas tree and a drum set for Erik. Dan & Patsy Brown, Gary Moore and Gerry Giardina. Take a bow folks, I’ll never forget any of you and we sure had some great times playing those good old songs. Had I not teamed up with all of you too, I may of never came to Nashville, I’m sure you all know that.


Rick Nelson was coming to St. Pete in November, though I couldn’t afford it, I went to get a ticket anyway, but then the show was cancled. Usually when they cancel, it’s because of slow ticket sales. Rick played in Orlando, Fla the following month after Christmas, but it was just too far to go. Then we were booked for New Years Eve at an amusement park near Orlando called Circus World. We were playing outside under a canvas tent. I remember it was raining lightly and we were doing Traveling Man. I was thinking about Rick and wondered where he was working that night. I’d find out first thing the next morning. We had rooms at a Holiday Inn and Erik who was a little over two, got up first and turned on the TV without the sound As I opened my eyes I saw RICK NELSON 1940-1985 across a screen with the remains of an airlplane crash in the woods. I immediately knew what happened . As the details unfolded, I felt even worse. When we gathered for breakfast, I broke the news to the rest of the band.


The next few days were full of all kinds of tabloid journalism on what had caused his plane to go down in flames. In the back of my mind though, was no one was saying how much this guy had contributed to Rock history, or that he was still out there doing it, with as much or more enthusiasm as he had thirty years prior. Then in late January I got to see a tape of a concert he did in LA that summer before. The entire band that was with him in that plane was on that show and I don’t think he ever had a band that good. Also backing him up were the Jordanaires, sounding just like they used to. For several days, I could not get that show out of my head and watched the tape of it over and over.

The Man With The Leather Guitar

Without the stores income, we had to come up with several ways to earn money. Anne had started a office and house cleaning business and I helped her with that. It supplied the biggest part of our limited income. We also had rented a flea market booth to move what was left of our store inventory. As I was driving to the flea market one Saturday morning, I kept thinking about Rick Nelson and his band. He’d been gone about a month or two and the speculation and news stories had stopped. It would be a year before The FAA issued the results of their investigation and those results were buried in the back of the paper. It was a faulty gas heater in the plane, where the fire had started. Rick was now history and just his music was living on. I remembered that in most of the photos I ever saw of him with a guitar, he had one of those tooled leather covers on the instrument like the old country stars had. Tone sacrificed for appearance. Actually Rick got the idea from Elvis. Hank Snow had given one to Elvis, when he saw how the boy thrashed his guitar. That image and the idea of him keeping on with the music he truly believed in, plus the awesome band that perished with him, would not leave me alone. By the time I got to the flea market, I had several lines and a song title in my head. Through the day I worked on it writing the words on a paper sack. By the time I got home that afternoon, I had a song


Ozzie’s kid loved what he did He believed in it everyday
A compromise might of been wise But he had to play it his way
His songs were fun they were for everyone
They were for Donna for Peggy Sue
As we danced away I could hear him say
Hello To Sweet Mary Lou

He was a walkin’ man he had a rocking band
He was a bopper he was a star
One of the original rockers
The man with the leather guitar

I’ll always remember the last of December
And what I was doing that night
Singin’ the bop at a New Years Eve hop
Didn’t know of The Yankees• last flight
I opened my eyes to a solemn surprise two dates on a silent TV
But his songs will live on long after we’re gone
With that I’ll just let it be

He was a traveling man he had a hell of a band
He was a bopper he was a star
One of the original rockers
The man with the leather guitar

Copyright 1986 Ken Spooner

* Yankee 1 was the call letters name of Rick’s DC-3

I put a version of it down on my little porta studio and played it for the band. Dan really went nuts about it and wanted to add it to our song list. We were going to do a tribute dance to Rick’s memory, and worked it up. It went over real well and several people asked us if we planned to record it. We hadn’t, but say record to a musician and they say Where? When? None of the band had ever been in a studio before, but for their first time they did great. We now had little demo tape of the song. We still were not sure of what to do with it. I mean the band had no designs of ever doing anything else other than the usual weekend gigs for fun and extra money, but I guess the old pro in me came creeping back. I sent a copy of it to Gordon Stoker, the leader of the Jordanaires. Gordon told me it was a fine tribute to the nicest person the Jordanaires ever worked with. He sent a copy to Rick’s mom Harriet. Gordon also told me the Jordanaires were scheduled to be on the plane with Rick for that New Years show, but there was a last minute cancellation. It was so last minute, that I’d find out later from Gordon’s son Alan, that when the news broke, he thought his father was on that plane.

Gordon’s encouragement was all I needed. He suggested that I send a copy to Jimmie Haskell, Rick’s longtime record producer and gave me Jimmie's address. I did and Jimmie called and said, “Normally I wouldn’t touch something like this with a ten foot pole, but I think you did a fine heartfelt job here. How would you feel about James Burton recording it?” My reply was “I didn’t know James sang”.( James was Rick’s guitarist on most of his hits and was in the TV band with bassist Joe Osborne) With that kind of encouragement, I started writing songs again. At first they were centered around oldies themes, I still had no idea of what to do with them, but I began listening to what was coming out of Nashville. The O’Kanes, Michael Johnson, Don Williams, Foster & Lloyd and The Judds were all catching my ear. I wrote some more songs and sent them off to Gordon. He wrote back a few words of cautionary encouragement. "I like your song’s, but it is really tough to get anything going here these days. All the producers have their own writers and it’s just very difficult to crack into the business. If you decide to come We (The Jordanaires) would love to work with you." That did it! Nashville needs me!! From that point on it was write and send tapes and prepare to move to Nashville. Anne was not for it 100% and said perhaps we should just move close, like North Carolina or something. We started taking out of town papers and I read everything I could about the song community. The more I learned, the more I realized, you had to be there in the thick of it, if you were going to “get anything going” .







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