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CLEAR LAKE — Playing the Surf Ballroom is a very personal experience for Matthew and Gunnar Nelson.

The twin sons of 1950s teen idol Ricky Nelson and grandchildren of television’s Ozzie and Harriet Nelson will play the 2013 Winter Dance Party on Thursday, Jan. 31.

“Ricky Nelson Remembered” will featuring Matthew and Gunnar and their band, including original Stone Canyon Band member David Morgan on keyboard as well as Bobby Vee’s sons, Tommy and Jeff, on upright bass and drums.

Rick Nelson died in a plane crash in Dec. 31, 1985, in DeKalb, Texas.

This is the third time the Nelsons have played the Surf.

“It’s really neat in our case because if you walk down the (Surf’s) main hall you actually will see several photos of our family,” Gunnar Nelson said in a telephone interview. “The first one you see is Ozzie and Harriet in their big band. As you walk on down on a little farther there’s a picture of our father, Ricky, with his early rockabilly band, and then again in the later years with his Stone Canyon Band.

“Then you are going to see a picture of me and Matthew the first time we were there. So, three generations of the Nelson family have played the Surf Ballroom,” Gunnar said.

“It is really nice when we actually get a chance to walk into venues and know for certain that our family has actually performed there. Our family has been doing this in America for 120 years.”

Harriet Nelson was born Peggy Louise Snyder in Des Moines in 1909. She was the daughter of vaudeville performers. By 1932, she was performing in vaudeville where she met the saxophone-playing bandleader Ozzie Nelson. Nelson hired her to sing with the band under the name Harriet Hilliard. They married three years later.

“Ricky Nelson Remembered” is not just a concert, according to Gunnar.

“This is a high-energy rock concert which meets an episode of ‘Biography.’ Rick Nelson was arguably the most televised rock ’n’ roller in history,” Gunnar said.

Using the song set list from Nelson’s last tour in 1985, the brothers picked video clips, interview footage with entertainers like Paul McCartney and John Fogarty, to tell a story.

Gunnar said his father was a big Buddy Holly fan, although he never had the chance to play with Holly. According to Gunnar, Ozzie Nelson refused to let his son out of filming the family’s television show, “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” to go on tour.

In fact, Gunnar said, the Holly classic “Rave On” was the last song Ricky Nelson performed at a concert — on Dec. 28, 1985, in Guntersville, Ala.

The brothers are aware of continuing the family tradition.

“To me it feels really good,” Gunnar said, “that we are upholding the family tradition with a sense of honor and a code of professionalism.”

Wednesday: Gary U.S. Bonds


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