The date: October 15th 1971. Madison Square Garden, New York City.
The Event: the 7th Annual Rock-N-Roll Revival Show.
It was a concert that featured a collection of artists who were unearthed on stage and on vinyl in the 1950′s. They were the musical roots that allowed Rock-N-Roll to grow.
There was Chuck Berry on stage, doing his famous duckwalk while reeling off hits like Maybelline, Sweet Little Sixteen and Johnny B Goode. Fats Domino, pounding out Blueberry Hill and Ain’t That A Shame on his piano. Bill Haley, singing the first rock anthem “Rock Around The Clock”- his hair still slicked back with that familiar kiss curl hanging down on his forehead.
The audience was gushing in memories and loving every back beat coming from the stage. After yet another brief intermission to rearrange the stage for the next act, the nights MC, legendary promoter Richard Nadar introduced the next act.
“Ladies and Gentleman would you please give a warm welcome for Rick Nelson!”
Out on stage walked Rick waving to the crowd as he plugged in and set himself up to sing.
The person the audience saw onstage, was not the person they associated with the name. It wasn’t Ricky from the 50′s, the teenage pop idol who literally grew up in front of Americans on television as little Ricky Nelson on the hugely popular Ozzie & Harriet show, it was just Rick now, and the more mature Nelson didn’t resemble what the crowd remembered from the fabulous fifties: his hair was grown out shoulder length, he wore a purple velvet sequined shirt with bell-bottomed pants and was barely recognizable to most simply because he had not been in the spotlight since his last hit in 1963.
Rick took to the stage and began playing his set with a few of his 50′s hits, then began performing his new material with his Stone Canyon Band. The songs had a smooth country rock feel to them. The Stone Canyon Band once feature a young 25-year-old bassist named Randy Meisner, who would later join Poco, then help form the first lineup of a new band called The Eagles.
The crowd didn’t get it.
A loud rumble of booing began to sweep over the Garden. Rick Nelson was experiencing something he had never felt before: An unappreciative audience.
It affected Rick deeply. So much in fact that he went home after the show and began writing about the experience:
I went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories and play our songs again
When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name
No one recognized me, I didn’t look the same
But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself
It was a special song for Rick. Up until that time, Nelson rarely wrote his own hits and a year later Garden Party would sit for three months on the charts and introduce the 50′s star to a new audience.