Remembering past bandleaders, musicians, arrangers and ballroom operators.
Ozzie Nelson, 69, dies of cancer
Los Angeles - (AP) - Ozzie Nelson, 69, the bandleader-turned-actor whose "Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" entertained millions for 22 years on radio and television, died of cancer, early today.
His wife for almost 40 years, Harriet Hilliard Nelson, was at his bedside when death came.
Nelson had undergone liver surgery eight months ago and remarked, "Isn't that odd for a guy who never drank or smoked."
Nelson had been failing after the operation and was confined to his Hollywood home. He was visited almost daily by his two sons, David and Rick.
A funeral service is scheduled for Thursday.
A spokesman said Nelson died at his home.
Nelson was the sunshiny husband and father in the series that set records for longevity. His wife, Harriet, on the air and in real life, was a warm-voice beauty who joined his band as vocalist in 1932. They married October 8, 1935.
Their son, David Ozzie, arrived in 1936 and Eric Hilliard (Ricky) in 1940. A generation of Americans heard and watched them grow to manhood. They joined the family radio show four years after its start in 1944.
In 1972 the Nelson parents returned in "Ozzie's Girls," a syndicated television series.
Ozzie's line of work was never explained in the shows, and for years he was plagued by the question: "What does Ozzie do for a living?"
He explained in his 1973 autobiography, "Ozzie":
I was a bandleader both on the show and in real life, and that if I were suddenly to become a plumber or an insurance salesman it would simply not ring true . . ."
Oswald Nelson was born March 20, 1906, in Jersey City, N.J. He started in amateur musicals at the age of 5 and starred on the gridiron for Rutgers University.
Graduating at the depths of the Depression, he formed an orchestra and soon was playing all over the country.
While playing at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles, Harriet received film offers. Ozzie toured with the band while Harriet was making movies, and he sought a way for them to work together. "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett" provided the opportunity.
The show lasted 10 seasons on radio and 14 on TV, with two years overlapping.
[Source: Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington), dated June 3, 1975]
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