top of page

Travelin' Man - Ricky Nelson

Another American rock star who died in a plane crash was Ricky Nelson. The plane was privately owned by Nelson and the crash, like the Buddy Holly tragedy, also occurred mid tour and the casualties included band members. Ironically, the final song that Nelson played in his last performance was Holly's "Rave On" (see post Feb 16th, 2021, two posts ago).

By the time he died in 1982, he hadn't had a hit in thirteen years, and was very much part of the sixties nostalgia touring circuit.

Nowadays, the song that Nelson is most remembered for is "Hello Mary Lou" but at the time "Mary Lou" was the follow up to the more successful "Travelin' Man" which reached number one on the US charts but is largely forgotten now. This is probably because it is softer than his more well-known tracks, but it's also possible that the fact the the song is basically a list of girls that he has awaiting in every port-of-call around the world hasn't helped, flying as it does in the face of modern ideologies.

It does highlight, however, the problems that beset the culture of performers to this day. They have to travel, now more than ever, to make their living, often facing gruelling transport demands, the temptations of the road, the new venues, the preparations, the repetitious and wearing cycle of touring arrival, set-up, pre-show stress, performance, the post-gig high that has to be filled, the morning after and the long haul to the next city. And, more often than not, loneliness.

We, the public, who go to see them, don't often think of the Faustian pact such performers make, the trade of the road for their art and possible fame and adulation. This applies not only to musicians, but to performers of all sorts from actors and dancers, to magicians, acrobats, puppeteers and the all kinds of artists that came under the broad heading of circus. Not to mention the original travelling performers, the troubadour poets.

At a time when lockdown has, but for the virtual internet journeys of performers into our homes, almost completely stopped the centuries-old traditions of live arts, we should spare a moment to think of the new tribulations being undergone by these artists who are the conscience of the world, the ones who keep us sane, who take us away from our daily cares to the moment where, for ten minutes or an hour or two, we find salvation, peace and pure emotion, and are recharged. They enable us to see things from the point of view of others, and to see ourselves from the outside. No wonder the Trumps of the world, and all right wing authorities obsessed by the power of the individual don't like them. For these reasons we must support the the performers through these hard days and be there for them when we get back to normal. We need them more than they need us.


bottom of page