He was born Oswald George Nelson on March 20, 1906 in Jersey City, New Jersey. As a young man, he was the youngest person (at 13) to ever be awarded the Eagle Scout rank. He graduated from Rutgers University and entered law school. While in college, he played in a small band and coached football to earn money. But when faced with the depression, and music changed to a full time career.
Ozzie started his entertainment career as a band leader. He formed and led the Ozzie Nelson Band, and had some limited success. He made his own 'big break' in 1930. The New York Daily Mirror ran a poll of its readers to determine their favorite band. He knew that news vendors got credit from the newspaper for unsold copies by returned the front page. Gathering hundreds of discarded newspapers, the band filled out ballots in their favor. They edged out Paul Whitemnan and were pronounced the winners.
In October 1935 he married the band's vocalist Harriet Hilliard. The couple had two children. David, born in 1936 became an actor and director. Eric, born in 1940 became a singer and actor using the stage name of Ricky Nelson.
In the 1940s Ozzie began to look for a way to spend more time with his family, especially his growing sons. Besides band appearances, he and Harriet had been guests on the Red Skelton's radio show. He developed and produced his own radio series, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet. The show went on the air in 1944, and in 1952 it moved over to television. The show starred the entire family, and America watched Ozzie and Harriet raise their boys.
In 1973 he published his autobiography, Ozzie (Prentice Hall, ISBN 0136477682). Ozzie died of cancer on June 3, 1975 and is buried in Hollywood's Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Ozzie Nelson Facts
|Oswald George Nelson
|March 20, 1906
|Jersey City, New Jersey, USA
|Date of death
|June 3, 1975 (age 69)