These Twins Were Just 18 When Their Star Dad Crashed in Plane – His Last-Minute Cancelation Saved Them

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Regarded as one of the most extensively televised pop stars of his era, he captivated countless hearts through his music. While he enjoyed a long tenure as a teen idol, to his admirers with a penchant for sentimentality, he was the individual whose eleventh-hour choice rescued his sons from peril, forever etching his legacy in their hearts.

Born on May 8, 1940, in New Jersey, he emerged as one of the standout teen idols of the late ’50s and early ’60s. Hailing from a family deeply entrenched in the entertainment world, his parents helmed their own television program, a platform he and his elder brother seamlessly integrated into over time. Remarkably, the show maintained an impressive streak, running for a remarkable 16 consecutive years, setting a benchmark in the annals of TV sitcom history.

After his time at Gardner Street Public School and Bancroft Junior High, he transitioned to Hollywood High School. Despite his father’s strong recommendation for a college education, he harbored a disdain for traditional schooling.

By the time he reached the typical college-going age, he was already raking in substantial earnings, pulling in up to $100,000 annually. Consequently, he saw little value in pursuing further education within a formal academic setting.

At the age of 17, he marked his musical debut by recording his inaugural single, “I’m Walking.” This milestone coincided with his television premiere, where he showcased his talent by singing and drumming to the same song on an episode of the family-oriented show, “The Drummer.” Remarkably, the track swiftly ascended to the impressive position of No. 4 on Billboard’s Best Sellers chart.

This initial success served as a launchpad for his burgeoning career. In the ensuing years, he continued to release a string of chart-topping hits, including notable tracks like “Garden Party,” “It’s Late,” “Fools Rush In,” “For You,” “Poor Little Fool,” and “Travelin’ Man,” among numerous others.

Prior to releasing them as singles, he typically premiered the majority of his songs to the audiences of his parents’ television program.

Marriage and Children

The Christmas season of 1961 held particular significance for the artist. While he had been dating for years, his romantic pursuits were consistently met with disapproval from his mother.

This time around, he found himself romantically involved with someone familiar to his parents. They shared many similarities – both came from families with authoritative fathers, grew up in Hollywood, and possessed reserved personalities. What cemented their connection was the long-standing friendship between their parents.

Their children dating added an intriguing dimension to their relationship, leading the young couple to marry in April 1963. Together, they welcomed four children into the world, including twins and a daughter who later pursued a career as a singer and actress.

The Crash

Over the following decade, he made his mark in the music industry with a series of rock and roll hits that landed him in the top 40 charts. His influence extended far beyond his own success, inspiring future artists like The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt.

The debris of a DC-3 plane, that crashed and killed the singer | Source: Getty Images

The debris of a DC-3 plane, that crashed and killed the singer | Source: Getty Images

Despite his fear of flying, he continued to tour extensively, connecting with audiences worldwide. Tragically, during one such tour, he met his untimely demise, leaving behind a grieving world and a lasting legacy.

A few days before he was scheduled to fly to Dallas for a New Year’s show with his twin sons, he had a premonition and chose not to fly with them. This last-minute decision proved to be lifesaving, as the plane they were meant to travel on crashed, claiming all lives on board.

Unproven Theories Surrounding the Crash

Following his death, various theories emerged regarding the cause of the crash, including speculation about drug use and mechanical failures. However, after three decades, no definitive explanation has been reached.

The Children He Left

Behind Ricky Nelson left behind four children, each carving out their own paths in the world. His daughter Tracy pursued a successful acting career, while his twin sons Matthew and Gunner followed in his musical footsteps, honoring his legacy through their performances.

Musicians Matthew and Gunnar Nelson performing on stage during a "live" concert appearance on March 14, 1991. | Source: Getty Images

Musicians Matthew and Gunnar Nelson performing on stage during a “live” concert appearance on March 14, 1991. | Source: Getty Images

Ricky Nelson for the film "The Wackiest Ship in the Army" | Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ricky Nelson for the film “The Wackiest Ship in the Army” | Source: Wikimedia Commons

The youngest, Sam Nelson, also pursued a career in music, continuing his father’s musical legacy with his band H is Orange.

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