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Encore Series: Night of Nelson brimming with love and affection

A window into the world of America's original teenage idol was opened wide to a Hays audience Tuesday night as "Ricky Nelson Remembered" entertained and delighted fans at Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

Ricky Nelson's twin sons, Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, brought a slew of "Pop's" music to life at the Fort Hays State University's Encore Series event with harmonies made even sweeter through their shared DNA.

Telling stories of their famous family's show business existence, Matthew and Gunnar Nelson's conversational style brought the audience into the inner circle of growing up in a home frequented by rock stars and actors. They occasionally tossed out quick one-liners and showed a penchant for not taking themselves too seriously.

Their grandfather, Ozzie Nelson, creator of the 1950s and 1960s television series "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," smuggled rock 'n' roll into homes across America in 1957, when he staged Ricky Nelson's first solo vocal performance on the program.

Talented rock artists in their own right, the twins hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1990 with their band Nelson on the Billboard charts performing their original hit "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection."

Their performance of "Lonesome Town" on Tuesday night, with its gentle guitar bends and rich harmonies, took audience members back several decades to experience their first broken heart.

With voices that echoed the smooth stylings of their father, Matthew and Gunnar Nelson brought a unique dimension to familiar '50s rock, rockabilly, rock 'n' roll, folk and country rock tunes. Their connection to their audience felt authentic, evoking memories of drive-in movies and bobby socks.

So authentic, I'm afraid, that I headed home after the concert and tore my bathroom apart looking for plastic hair rollers and tape for my bangs.

Film clips of Ricky Nelson's career, with at least one that hadn't been seen in 50 years, played throughout the evening, along with clips of interviews with Paul McCartney, John Fogerty, Sam Phillips and others influenced by Ricky Nelson.

Matthew Nelson told the audience their dad had given the twins two basic pieces of advice regarding launching their own music careers. On a backdrop screen, Ricky Nelson's forever young image looked out at the audience, wistful, with his ice blue eyes and Pepsodent smile.

"He said, 'Guys, if you're going to do this for a living, keep your sense of humor,' " Matthew Nelson said. "In this business, you're going to need it.

"Second thing he said was, 'Learn from my life and my lessons. Be songwriters, first and foremost. Because, boys, I'd give all those early hits that other people wrote for me for the feeling I got from the song "Garden Party" that I wrote by myself.' "

Dawne Leiker is a reporter for The Hays Daily News.