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Nelson, Rick (08 May 1940–31 December 1985), singer and actor, was born Eric Hilliard Nelson in Teaneck, New Jersey, the son of Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Hilliard Nelson (née Peggy Lou Snyder), radio and television stars who did much to define the situation comedy. Nelson made his first professional appearance on radio in 1949 on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” He played the smart-aleck little brother to David Nelson, and his wisecracks were used as laugh-winning punch lines. Moving with his family to television, Rick used the medium to debut as a rock star in the early days of that musical form (1957), recording a cover version of Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin’,” reportedly to impress a girl. The record sold more than 1 million copies in two weeks, highlighting the fact that the white treatment of rhythm and blues, called rock and roll, could sell, particularly if the singer were photogenic and nonthreatening, or at least not black....

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Ritter, Tex (12 January 1905–02 January 1974), singer and actor, was born Woodward Maurice Ritter in Murvaul, Texas, the son of James Everett Ritter, a farmer and cowboy, and Elizabeth Matthews. Ritter attended school in his church, “which was partitioned into two rooms.” When he was fifteen, the family of eight resettled in Nederland, southwest of Beaumont and Port Arthur. After the harvest, he attended “singing schools” conducted by itinerant teachers, one of whom was ...