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"The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet:" The Drama Behind America's Favorite Family
Before we had families like those seen on today's Modern Family, America had The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. A popular sitcom that ran through the better part of the '50s and '60s, it starred the real-life Nelson family, whose show became the poster television show for the ideal American family during that era. But you will soon find that everything was not as perfect as it seemed…
From Law School To a Dance Band
Oswald George Nelson, otherwise known as Ozzie, is a New Jersey native who after high school went to Rutgers School of Law in Newark. To make pocket money during his time in school, Ozzie played the saxophone in a band, in addition to coaching football.
He was constantly rejected as a vocalist for the Rutgers Jazz Bandits but didn't let the rejection discourage him. In his spare time, he organized a dance band that defied expectations and thrived beyond belief. Eventually, during the Depression era, Ozzie quit school to pursue music full-time. He and his band played to full houses at hotels and ballrooms all along the East Coast.
Ozzie Falls for a Showgirl
Following his "big break" in 1930, Ozzie and his band, Ozzie Nelson Band, recorded with several labels including Brunswick, Vocalion, Bluebird, and Victor. In the early 1930s, their hit song "Over Somebody Else's Shoulder" helped them maintain their growing popularity. Around this time, a vaudeville actress named Peggy Lou Snyder was performing in New York City.
Ozzie's and Peggy's paths would cross eventually and Ozzie hired Peggy to perform with his band. Changing her name to Harriet Hilliard, she helped skyrocket the band's success with her perky vocals. The band's number one hit "And Then Some" was number one for a whole week on the U.S. pop singles chart in 1935.