Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b Oswald George Nelson, 20 March 1906, Jersey City NJ; d 3 June 1975) Bandleader, songwriter, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, later TV star. He studied law and was an active athlete in college, but also led a dance band, turning pro after graduation '30. Vocalist Harriet Hilliard joined band '32 (Peggy Lou Snyder, 1909-94, from Des Moines), they married '35; the successful band with good arrangements had nearly 40 hit records ('30-6 on Brunswick, '37-40 on Bluebird), including no. 1 'And Then Some' '35, mostly with Ozzie's vocals; his style resembled Rudy Vallee. Charlie Spivak played trumpet in the early band, then Harry Johnson, with Abe Lincoln on trombone, Charles Bubeck on baritone sax (an obbligato baritone with last chorus was a trademark sound). Theme was college song 'Loyal Sons Of Rutgers'; he wrote songs such as 'And Then Your Lips Met Mine' '30 and 'I'm Looking For A Guy Who Plays Alto And Baritone, Doubles On Clarinet And Wears A Size 37 Suit' '40. Among many radio shows were those with comics Joe Penner '33-5 and Red Skelton '41 (Hilliard played Skelton's mother in 'mean little kid' skits). He made several films as single or with band.
Harriet had been a ballet dancer in vaudeville, appeared on Broadway in The Blonde Sinner '26, played second lead in film Follow The Fleet '36 with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They began archetypal family sitcom The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet on radio '44, made film Here Come The Nelsons '51, transferred to TV '52-68; sons David and Ricky took part; even their TV home was modelled after their real home in Hollywood. Ricky became a pop star (see Rick Nelson, below; David d 11 January 2011 in Los Angeles aged 74.) Ozzie and Harriet made an LP on Imperial, Ricky's label, with semi-rock'n'roll backing; toured with road shows '60s-70s, came back to TV with Ozzie's Girls '73-4; he published an autobiography Ozzie '73.