When Rick hit puberty his off-screen image started to change and, unlike wholesome older brother Dave, he fell in with the tough kids at Hollywood High. Juvenile delinquency stalked the imagination of suburban America. Ozzie saw the signs and tried to steer Ricky toward things like tennis, at which he excelled. But Ricky did the opposite of what his father wanted.
Ozzie and Harriet bought a pair of 1957 Porsches for the boys, a scant year after James Dean died in his own red Porsche in the California desert. Rick went into a skid at 120 MPH and rolled the car eight times, suffering contusions and a cracked pelvis.
Ricky's first rock and roll record was "Blue Suede Shoes" by Carl Perkins.
He was entranced by the raw, driving sound. "I thought, boy, this is great with that guitar break in it like that. That's what I really tried to emulate, that sound and that tone." To impress a girl friend he cut his own record in a record-your-own-voice booth. Ozzie got wind of it and used his connections to get Ricky into a real studio - Bunny Robyn's Master Recorders on Fairfax Avenue.
Sidemen on the session included Merle Travis, the great country guitarist and song writer (he wrote Tennesee Ernie's monster hit, "Sixteen Tons"), and Earl Palmer, drummer on Fats Domino's version of "I'm Walkin." They cut a couple of schmaltzy tunes from Robyn's vault and then tried "I'm Walkin'." Ricky said, "It was only song I knew at the time. It had about three chords, so I could play it on the guitar, and that's why I did the song. I really liked his (Fats') version of it."
"It was really an afterthought to do it on the television show, 'cause I had just recorded the song and just that day my dad, he came up and said, 'Why don't you do your new song on the show?' So I did and nobody realized at the time the exposure that television gives you."
Ozzie knew what he was doing.
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