Bob Dylan and Ricky Nelson

By Aaron Galbraith

I came across this interview with Bob today and thought this question and answer was worth investigating!

In an interview published in Bob was asked to pick a favorite song by another artist that mentions his name in the lyrics. His pick: “Garden Party” by Ricky Nelson.


So I thought it might be interesting to take a look/listen.

The Wikipedia page has some real good facts about the song telling us the song relates the story of Nelson being booed at a concert at Madison Square Garden on October 15, 1971 and billed as “Richard Nader’s Rock ‘n Roll Revival.”

Also on the bill were Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Bobby Rydell.

Wiki reports that “Nelson came on stage dressed in the then-current fashion, wearing bell-bottoms and a purple velvet shirt, with his hair hanging down to his shoulders. He started playing his older songs like “Hello Mary Lou”, but then he played the Rolling Stones’ “Country Honk” (a country version of their hit song “Honky Tonk Women”) and the crowd began to boo. While some reports say that the booing was caused by police action in the back of the audience, Nelson thought it was directed at him. Nevertheless, he sang another song but then left the building and did not appear onstage for the finale.”

Wiki also tells us that “One more reference in the lyrics pertains to a particularly mysterious and legendary audience member: “Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan’s shoes, wearing his disguise”. The Mr. Hughes in question was apparently George Harrison, who was a next-door neighbor and good friend of Nelson’s. Harrison used “Hughes” as his traveling alias.”

They suggest that “hid in Dylan’s shoes” may refer to an album of Bob Dylan covers that Harrison was planning but never recorded.

Ricky Nelson however did cover lots of Dylan songs over the years, I shall Be Released, If You Gotta Go, Mama You’ve Been On My Mind, Love Minus Zero, walking Down the line and perhaps best of all She Belongs To Me.

And indeed the compliment was returned as you may recall we have also previously reviewed Bob covering Ricky’s Lonesome Town


He also covered Legend In My Time (I’d Be) in concert which he only performed 3 times in 1989 and never again.

This is one that we didn’t include in the series about songs Dylan played only once or twice, as it didn’t quite qualify but we can get it in now.

Ricky was a classic ballad singer; this gives a good insight into his style

Ricky Nelson (later Rick Nelson) was one of those stars who found fame in his youth, but whose style and music gradually became to be seen as old fashioned.  Also he was engaged in years of legal argument with his ex-wife which made the lawyers rich, but no one else.

He did put together a 1985 “Comeback tour” with Fats Domino, touring once more as Ricky (rather than Rick) and he released a greatest hits album but he tragically died in a plane crash on New Years Eve 1985, while flying to Texas for a concert.  It is said that the plane had a history of mechanical failures.

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  1. Songs like “There’s Nothing I Can Say”, as done by Nelson may be pure ‘kitsch’ – the faking of sincerity – but such lyrics nevertheless have a Pinteresque Romantic tint to them – ie, neither language nor action being adequate to communicate the state of one’s inner feelings to another –
    Perhaps explaining why Nelson appeals to Dylan (ie, She Belongs To Me).

  2. Rick was one of the Very Best. You can ask a ton of super stars of the 50s and 60s. He would still be doing it well and with the Rick Nelson CONVICTION. Always,. TRUE TO HIS MUSIC. That’s where the heart of ” Garden Party” came from. GO RICK. LV

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