Ozzie Nelson (March 20, 1906 - June 3, 1975) was an American entertainer who originated and starred in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet radio and television series with his wife and two sons.
The second son of Swedish parents, he was born in Jersey City, New Jersey and raised in the affluent suburb of Ridgefield Park, where the street of the high school he attended is now named after him. He became an Eagle Scout at thirteen and in adult life a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He graduated from Rutgers University, where he played football despite his slight build, 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, he turned to music as 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 for the newspaper for unsold copies by returning the front page and discarding the rest of the issue. Gathering hundreds of discarded newspapers, the band filled out ballots in their favor. They edged out Paul Whiteman 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 ("Ricky"), born in 1940, became an actor and singer.
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 regulars 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, with the sons played by actors until 1949, 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, who had suffered from recurring malignant tumors in his later years, died of cancer at age 69 and is interred with his wife and son Ricky in the Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
For his contribution to the television industry, Ozzie Nelson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6555 Hollywood Blvd. He has an additional star with his wife at 6260 Hollywood Blvd. for their contribution to radio.