The oldest son of bandleader Ozzie Nelson and songstress Harriet Hilliard Nelson, David Nelson was famous before ever making his professional debut. David and his brother Ricky both "appeared" on their parent's radio sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, albeit portrayed by professional child actors. The boys bugged O and H until their parents relented and allowed David and Ricky to costar in person on the radio series. When Ozzie and Harriet shifted to TV in 1952, the boys went along for the ride. Ricky unexpectedly became a teen idol in the late '50s, while David more or less played "straight" for the rest of the family. Except for a good supporting role as a homicidal trapeze artist in 1959's The Big Circus, David's acting career was colorless enough to encourage him to seek some other form of creative expression (though he'd later occasionally accept guest-star cameos in such projects as 1991's Cry Baby). In the early '60s, he turned to directing, first for the Nelson Family series, and then for several other TV situation comedies. David Nelson worked steadily but unspectacularly as a producer/director in the years to follow: in the early '80s he directed three theatrical films, the most prominent of which was the 1981 George Kennedy starrer The Rare Breed. Nelson, the last surviving member of his family, died of complications from colon cancer at age 74 in January 2011.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- On the original The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet radio show, sons David and Ricky were played by actors until Ozzie Nelson relented to his sons' requests to play themselves.
- Directed a number of episodes of the TV show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, in which he starred with his parents and brother Ricky.
- Both his marriage to June Blair (a former Playboy Playmate) and Rick's to Kris Harmon were written into the series and the two women portrayed themselves.
- Contributed liner notes and sang back-up vocals on a number of brother Ricky's albums.
- Produced and directed the 1973 spin-off Ozzie's Girls, which starred his parents.
- Daughter Teri was once married to game-show host Chuck Woolery.
- In 1987, produced and directed the documentary Rick Nelson: A Brother Remembers.
- In 2003, was mistakenly flagged as a potential terrorist by Federal agents while boarding a plane in Los Angeles because there was a different David Nelson on the list of people to watch out for.
- Passed away in January 2011 due to complications from colon cancer.