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Ricky Nelson | Source: Getty Images
Ricky Nelson | Source: Getty Images

Ricky Nelson’s 4 Kids Became Entertainers Too — More About Them

Naomi Wanjala
Jan 18, 2024
11:10 A.M.

Ricky Nelson's kids inherited his artistic genes, each carving their own path. Three of them are musicians, and one of them is an actress with multiple acting credits under her name.

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Ricky Nelson was a talented musician and actor who won fans' hearts with his incredible talents. Beyond the fame and recognition, Ricky was a loving father of four children whom he shared with his then-wife, Kristin Harmon.

During their marriage, the pair welcomed daughter Tracy and three sons Gunnar, Matthew, and Sam Nelson. While it's been decades since the icon passed on, Ricky Nelson's children have kept his legacy alive; they've each created a name for themselves in the entertainment world, ensuring their father's influence lives on.

Tracy Nelson

Rick Nelson poses for a portrait with his then-wife Kristin Harmon in 1967. | Source: Getty Images

Rick Nelson poses for a portrait with his then-wife Kristin Harmon in 1967. | Source: Getty Images

Ricky and Kristin Harmon welcomed their daughter, Tracy, on October 25, 1963. Tracy ventured into acting like her famous father. She embarked on her journey in the limelight at the tender age of five.

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Her film debut, "Yours, Mine and Ours," (1968), set the stage for a remarkable career that would unfold over the years. However, it was her iconic role as "Jennifer DeNuccio" in the TV series "Square Pegs" (1982-83) that truly catapulted her into the spotlight, earning her a dedicated fan base.

Her on-screen charisma and undeniable talent became a defining feature of the show. Tracy continued to carve her path in Hollywood, leaving an indelible mark with notable roles, including the memorable 1986 comedy "Down and Out in Beverly Hills."

Tracy Nelson at the 2019 TCM 10th Annual Classic Film Festival on April 14, 2019, in Hollywood, California | Source: Getty Images

Tracy Nelson at the 2019 TCM 10th Annual Classic Film Festival on April 14, 2019, in Hollywood, California | Source: Getty Images

Tracy's ability to seamlessly transition between television and film showcased the depth of her acting prowess. And in the face of challenges, she displayed unparalleled strength.

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Battling Hodgkin's disease in 1987, she emerged victorious, proving her resilience and determination. Her triumphant return to television, starring in the Emmy-nominated comedy series, "Father Dowling Mysteries" (1989), became a testament to her unwavering spirit.

Tracy's versatility continued to shine in various TV movies, including standout performances in "A League of Their Own, "Square Pegs " and "Melrose Place," just to name a few.

Tracy Nelson attends a screening at the 2019 TCM 10th Annual Classic Film Festival on April 14, 2019, in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

Tracy Nelson attends a screening at the 2019 TCM 10th Annual Classic Film Festival on April 14, 2019, in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

Contrary to popular assumptions, their family connections didn't serve as a shortcut to achievement; instead, they faced unique challenges on their journey.

Tracy's talents extend beyond acting; she is also a prolific writer, a gift that her daughter Remington Moses has embraced, following in her mother's acting and literary footsteps. In the book, "Rick Nelson, Rock 'n' Roll Pioneer," Tracy opened up about her father's love for his family. She shared:

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"He really loved his children. We were more important to him than anything else."

Matthew and Gunnar Nelson

Gunnar and Matthew Nelson performing during the 2019 CMA Music Festival on June 09, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee | Source: Getty Images

Gunnar and Matthew Nelson performing during the 2019 CMA Music Festival on June 09, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee | Source: Getty Images

Ricky Nelson's twin boys Matthew and Gunnar Nelson followed in his musical footsteps. The two are singer-songwriters who founded the multi-platinum-selling rock band Nelson.

In the early 1990s, the band achieved much recognition following their debut album, "The Rain," which included their hit song, "(Can't Live Without Your) Love And Affection." The album sold over 2 million copies, generating four hit singles that made it to the Billboard Hot 100.

In 2020, the twins marked the album's 30th anniversary since its release. However, they didn't plan to celebrate it in any special way. In an interview with Billboard, Gunnar said," I haven’t planned on lighting any candles on a cake or anything."

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Gunnar and Matthew Nelson of rock band "Nelson" visit SiriusXM Studios on February 2, 2017, in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

Gunnar and Matthew Nelson of rock band "Nelson" visit SiriusXM Studios on February 2, 2017, in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

The twins, known for their striking appearance with flowing, long blond hair in the early '90s, encountered and triumphed over challenges that might not have been anticipated for children coming from a celebrity family.

Despite being born into rock royalty as the sons of Ricky, the grandsons of entertainers Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, and the nephews of the celebrated actor Mark Harmon, the path to success for these twins wasn't paved with automatic privileges.

Contrary to popular assumptions, their family connections didn't serve as a shortcut to achievement; instead, they faced unique challenges on their musical journey.

Matthew, Tracy, and Gunnar Nelson attend the 61st Annual Academy Awards Rehearsals on March 20, 1989 at ABC Studios in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

Matthew, Tracy, and Gunnar Nelson attend the 61st Annual Academy Awards Rehearsals on March 20, 1989 at ABC Studios in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

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After the success of their first album, the band began experiencing several hurdles within the industry. First, with their record label, Geffen Records, then a shifting musical landscape, the rise of grunge and alternative rock dominated. Another challenge the band faced was a lack of support from the media.

The band eventually parted ways with the record label in 1995, establishing their own Stone Canyon Records, where they continued to create and produce music on their terms. Adding another dimension to their musical journey, Matthew and Gunnar pay a heartfelt tribute to their legendary father by performing under "Ricky Nelson Remembered."

Their legacy has earned them a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the only family to achieve number-one record status in three successive generations.

Sam Nelson

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Sam has also followed in his father's footsteps. His style of music is different from his older brothers. Diverging from the musical styles of his brothers, he has made his mark with a distinctive approach to music.

A notable chapter in Sam's musical journey unfolded as he became part of the group H is Orange, showcasing his versatility and willingness to explore different genres. Beyond performing, he also took the profound role of paying homage to his legendary father.

In the pursuit of his passion and commitment to honoring his father's memory, Sam reached out to Ray Walker, a member of the vocal quartet The Jordanaires, about working on a project for his dad.

Ricky Nelson and wife Kristin Harmon attend the Fifth Annual American Music Awards on January 16, 1978 | Source: Getty Images

Ricky Nelson and wife Kristin Harmon attend the Fifth Annual American Music Awards on January 16, 1978 | Source: Getty Images

Despite facing financial challenges, Sam raised the necessary funds, underscoring his commitment to the project. Upon working with him, Ray spoke highly of Sam, noting that his style of music had the same relaxed feeling and intonation as his father's.

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Sam's mother, Kristin, who died in 2018, held a unique perspective on her children's talents, and she singled out Sam as having the most amazing voice among them. She also noted that Sam took after his father's looks and voice, carrying on a legacy in appearance and musical prowess.

The tragedy of Ricky Nelson's untimely death in a plane crash in 1985 left a void in Sam's life, especially given his young age at the time. However, through his grandmother's love and guidance, Sam found solace and a deeper understanding of his father, whom he barely knew.

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