It was exactly half a century ago that Rick Nelson unveiled his fully-fledged “conversion” to country music The former teen heartthrob had been moving away from mainstream pop for some time when, on 30 May, 1966, he released Bright Lights and Country Music, an album with some impressive cover versions and notable guest musicians.
Glen Campbell lent his guitar credentials to the record, as did Nelson's longtime guitarist James Burton (on dobro) and future Byrds member Clarence White. As Nelson showed himself quite at home with a country set list, Bright Lights... featured such highlights as Bill Anderson's title track — a hit for him the year before — and namesake Willie Nelson's 'Hello Walls.'
Doug Kershaw's 1961 country top tenner 'Louisiana Man' was also on the album, and at the easy listening end of the spectrum, there was a nicely-measured version of Jim Reeves' 1964 smash 'Welcome To My World.' Campbell's co-write with Marc Douglas, 'Here I Am,' also featured, as did Terry Fell's spirited 'Truck Drivin' Man.' Rick's one composition of his own, the single release 'You Just Can't Quit,' further emphasised that he was an easy fit with the county sound.
Sadly, his traditional fans didn't agree. Bright Lights and Country Music failed to make the country or pop charts, or to end a barren spell that would have Nelson absent from the bestsellers from 1964 all the way until 1970. But eventually, the country-rock flavour of 1972's 'Garden Party' would win him new fans and prove that his earlier experiments hadn't been for nothing.