Travelin' Man

Album: Greatest Hits (1961)
Charted: 2 1
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  • This song was written by Jerry Fuller, a singer who had minor hits in 1959 with "Betty My Angel" and a cover of "Tennessee Waltz." Fuller wrote "Travelin' Man" one day at De Longpre Park in Hollywood while he was waiting to pick up his wife. He didn't play an instrument, so he beat out the melody on his car's dashboard.

    For the lyrics, Fuller came up with a "girl in every port" idea - a guy who travels all over the world and finds a different girl waiting for him wherever he goes. He used an atlas to get ideas for places, and looked up what the word for "girl" was in those places, so in German it's "Fraulien," in Mexico it's "Senorita," and in Alaska it's a "cute little Eskimo." He couldn't figure out what the term was in Hawaii, so he went with "pretty Polynesian baby."
  • Fuller recorded a demo of this song with Glen Campbell on guitar. He was hoping Sam Cooke would record it, so he brought it to Cooke's manager, J.W. Alexander. "Joe Osborn, who was Ricky's bass player, heard it through the wall," Fuller said. "He said, 'J.W., do you have that 'Travelin'' song you just played?' He said, 'Yeah, you can have it,' and he reached in the trash and he pulled out the demo."

    Osborn brought the song to Nelson, who loved it and recorded it. The song became his second (and last) #1 hit, and gave him a huge career boost.
  • Nelson used Elvis Presley's backing singers The Jordanaires on this song, as he did on most of his recordings. He loved the background vocals on the demo though, which were done by Fuller, Glen Campbell and Dave Burgess. Nelson brought them in to record on subsequent records.
  • Depending on the criteria, "Travelin' Man" could be the song with the very first music video. Ozzie Nelson realized that whenever he had Ricky sing on their show The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet, Ricky's record sales shot up the next day, so Ozzie tried to work it into the plot whenever Ricky had a new record out. As Ricky became popular and the demand for his songs was overwhelming, Ozzie realized that working his singing into the plot was going to be impossible, so Ozzie filmed Ricky singing "Travelin' Man," superimposed some travelogue scenes over the film and tacked it onto a show episode at the end. Viola! The music video was born.

    That is, if you don't count performance videos and extracted movie scenes like "Jailhouse Rock." And if you're OK with it being black and white.

    The episode, "A Question of Suits and Ties," aired on April 5, 1961 (the song hit #1 on May 29). The clip is far from groundbreaking, but it was footage synched to a performance. Around this time, standalone concept videos were starting to show up for use throughout Europe in Scopitone video jukeboxes, which were typically placed in bars. A few American artists made videos for these machines in the mid'-60s when they started to appear Stateside. Neil Sedaka made one for "Calendar Girl" and Nancy Sinatra did one (for a company called Color-Sonics) for "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Terry - Willmar, MN
  • Rick Nelson was born Eric Hilliard Nelson in 1940. He died in a small plane crash in Texas in 1985 while flying to a New Year's Eve concert. Mechanical problems and a cabin fire were suspected as the cause of the crash. Speculation that the fire was caused by someone on board freebasing cocaine was never proven, though aerosol cans were found at the crash site. The Nelson family said that the cans were part of the makeup box and that no drugs were involved. The matter was never completely resolved. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Garry - Anchorage, AK
  • This is a crowd favorite on the "Ricky Nelson Remembered" show, staged by his twin sons Matthew and Gunnar. In our interview with Matthew Nelson, he said, "When I'm singing 'Travelin' Man,' it's 1977 at the Sahara in Las Vegas, when I hung out for a week while Pop did a residency there. And I think about the guys who were in the band."

Comments: 13

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NySixty years ago today in 1961 {May 29th} "Travelin' Man" by Ricky Nelson peaked at #1 {for 2 non-consecutive weeks} on Billboard's Top 100 chart...
    "Running Scared" by Roy Orbison replaced "Travelin' Man" at #1 for one week, then Ricky regained the top spot...
    One month later on June 25th, 1961, "Travelin' Man" also peaked at #1 {for 5 weeks} on the Australian Kent Music Report chart...
    Between 1957 and 1973 the Teaneck, New Jersey native had fifty-three songs make the Top 100 chart, seventeen made the Top 10 with two reaching #1, Poor Little Fool" for two weeks in July of 1958 and the above "Travelin' Man"...
    He just missed having two more #1 records when both his "Teenager's Romance" peaked at #2 for one week in June of 1957 and "Stood Up" peaked at #2 for three weeks in January of 1958...
    Ricky Nelson, born Eric Hilliard Nelson, passed away at the young age of 45 on December 31st, 1985...
    May he R.I.P.
    And from the 'For What It's Worth' department, the remainder of Billboard's Top 10 on May 29th, 1961:
    At #2. "Daddy's Home" by Shep and the Limelites
    #3. "Running Scared" by Roy Orbison
    #4. "Mama Said" by The Shirelles
    #5. "Mother-In-Law" Ernie K-Doe {was the #1 record the previous week}
    #6. "Runaway" by Del Shannon
    #7. "Breakin' In A Brand New Broken Heart" by Connie Francis
    #8. "A Hundred Pounds of Clay" by Gene McDaniels
    #9. "I Feel So Bad" by Elvis Presley
    #10. "Tragedy" by The Fleetwoods
  • Alb from TexasThe freebasing rumor was totally resolved by the FAA in their final report and as retracted by the Washington Post who originally printed the story without investigated it or validating. I travelled with Rick for the five years immediately preceding the crash, and I can assure you that Rick nor anyone in his band ever free based at any time. Stop continuing to spread this false rumor. Check out the FAA report and the wrongful death trials that followed. There is plenty of evidence what caused the fire and I can tell you first hand that illegal drug use or paraphernalia had nothing to do with the crash; only a crazy pilot that decided to try fixing a kerosene heater while in flight when his copilot refused to do so (because they were in flight). The only two survivors were the pilot and copilot, the copilot passed away from natural causes a few years ago and the pilot eventually lost his pilots license after the trial and FAA report.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaPat I believe you. years ago when I was still living in San Diego county, where I grew up, I went to the (what was then called) The Del Mar Fair. my girl friend came along as well. Rickie was the headliner at the show that afternoon. GREAT SHOW. got his autograph just as he was leaving. sadly later on, after we had moved out of our old home, it got water damaged, along with a lot of other things, we didn't know where we had the stuff stored ,the roof was leaking.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyA two-sided Top Ten record for Ricky; "Travelin' Man" stayed at #1 for two weeks while the flip-side "Hello Mary Lou" {penned by Gene Pitney} peaked at #9!!! {Billboard}
  • Pierre from Chelsea, Quebec, CanadaNelson, to my knowledge, recorded two live performances of that tremendous hit. The song got better and better every time.
    The most likely cause of the plane crash which took Rick's life was a defective cabin heater.
    A very fine singer, a superb voice : maybe the best of his era with Dion DiMucci.
    Pierre Cantin,Chelsea-upon-Gatineau
  • Andrew from Birmingham, United StatesSo, this song is about Ricky Nelson traveling the world and exchanging hearts with thousands upon thousands of babes? He's lucky to have so many babes attracted to him. But what's he doing juggling so many women? Is he trying to become the next King Solomon? Or is he playing "leap frog" because so many relationships aren't working out? One of my closest friends is doing that. I won't name any names.
  • Sara from Greenville, AlTo David from Witchita, It was his fiancee, not yet his wife that was with him.
  • Pat from Indianapolis, InIn the 80?s my brother and I had a computer store in Indianapolis, IN. Twice a year Chicago and Vegas hosted the Consumer Electric Show. We went to the summer CES in Chicago in ?85. One of our distributors had a 50?s show where they the ?Oldies? came in to entertain. The ?one and only ?Rick Nelson gave a show and half. He saw I was taking pictures of him as he sang. He actually ?posed? as he performed and looked in my camera so I could get the ?best? pic of him. Now I don?t know if other singers would take the time to allow a ?rookie? photographer take his pic and pose while he is singing >>>>BUT HE DID. That is why he is on the ?Top Shelf ?in my view. It is true the ?Good? die young. The good news is he will live on in video and song and in our ?hearts?. And who could want more than that?
  • David from Wichita, KsNelson his band and his wife were in a DC-3 that crashed. Its not the size of a 747 but its not a small aircraft either. It is an airliner-1930's style.
  • Jonnie from St. Louis, MoAbout Jerry Fuller: He was a prolific writer and producer. Besides 'Travelin' Man' he wrote "Young World" for Rick and also produced O.C. Smith and The Union Gap. For the Union Gap he also wrote: "Young Girl", "Lady Willpower" and
    "Over You".
  • Jonnie from St. Louis, Mo"Travelin' Man" was written by Jerry Fuller. There was a park close to where his wife worked,and everyday when he went to pick her up he'd take his guitar, sit in the park and write songs while he waited for her. He'd been thinking about writing a song about a man who traveled all over the world and one day took a World Atlas along with him to go over the countries in it.
    The song was written in about 20 minutes. And, yes, it was first offered to Sam Cooke's manager but he turned it down. Rick's bass player, Joe Osborne, had been in the next room of the record company and heard it. He asked Cooke's manager if he could hear it again, and the man said: "Here, you can have it." It was one of Rick's biggest hits and stayed on the Charts for 4 months.
  • Garry from Anchorage, AkContrast Ozzie's family of the 1950's with Ozzie's family of the 2000's (The Osbournes). Whoa!
  • Victor from Haworth, EnglandIn the UK, the song was the B-side to his biggest hit, Helloh Mary Lou. Travellin' Man had been offered to Sam Cooke but he turned it down - Ricky recognised a good song and snapped it up!
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