HOLLYWOOD -- David Nelson has completed the most heart-wrenching assignment of his life, an hour-long documentary of his brother Rick for The Disney Channel.
The show, 'Rick Nelson: A Brother Remembers,' will be seen on the cable service Nov. 16. It is a portrait of the singer-songwriter who, until his death two years ago, had sold more than 60 million records, fourth highest among single artists in the history of the recording business.
A producer-director of movies and TV commercials at Casablanca Films, of which he is president, David spent months reviewing his younger brother's life in the 438 segments of the 'The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet' TV series, concert footage, recordings and photograph albums of their life together.
Closer than most siblings because of their years together as performers and living under the same roof, David was often overcome by sadness during his work.
Rick, who became a wildly popular rock star and concert artist, was killed in a Texas airplane crash on New Year's Eve 1985.
Thereafter, stories circulated that Rick, 45, was free-basing cocaine on the chartered plane and was responsible for his own death along with those of other members of his musical group. Authorities have since discredited the stories.
But the tragic end of Rick's life is not what the Disney special is all about. It is, rather, a celebration of Rick Nelson's life and work.
David, a solid, thoughtful man, has not included in the documentary any of the recent events involving Rick's ex-wife, Kris, and the custody problems over her youngest son with her brother, actor Mark Harmon.
'My parents brought us up not to air dirty linen,' he said. 'We are in the business of entertaining people.'
For the first time in many years, David will appear on camera as host and narrator.
'I guess I was the right man for the job,' David said in his busy Sunset Boulevard offices. 'I was the only listener in the family. Mom and Dad and Rick were the musicians.
'It's hard for me to imagine two brothers being any closer than Rick and I, especially considering we were four years apart. There was a bond between us like twins. We knew each other so well we didn't have to talk much. There was a real rapport.
'Still, it was difficult for me to find a theme for this show. Mother helped me out. Of course there was the show we did with our parents for 22 years -- five of them on radio -- and Rick's music.
'Emotionally it was very difficult for me to focus in on Rick. But if I was still hurting, the investigation into the hurt helped put it all into perspective,' he said. 'As executor of my brother's estate, I've been close to everything that has happened since.
'I determined quickly not to fight the innuendo and slanderous stories in the media. I wanted the show to make a positive statement about Ricky. I don't think he got all the credit he deserved during his lifetime.'
David said Rick's clean-cut family image helped make rock 'n' roll respectable.
'Elvis Presley, of course, really established rock,' David said. 'And when Rick came along he popularized music that was called country rock. He was responsible for the steel guitar in rock, which was unique at the time.
'He was a fine musician who could see talent in other people. Rick was good at whatever he wanted to do, including tennis. He was ranked 11th nationally as a junior.
'A lot of the material on this show will be seen for the first time, including home movies, photographs and interviews with Rick,' David said. 'Actually, the show is sort of a history of our family too. There is footage of Rick's twin sons and about 38 minutes of clips from the 'Ozzie and Harriet' shows. There's enough material for another show on the Nelson family.'
As was the case with Rick, David is essentially a quiet, introverted man who admired his brother's ability to overcome his innate shyness to perform on camera and in concert.
'Rick loved the music he wrote and played,' David said. 'There was very little in life he enjoyed more than singing and performing.'
On the show, Rick will be seen singing some of his greatest hits - he had 22 gold records. Among the songs are 'Hello Mary Lou,' 'I'm Walkin',' 'Travelin' Man,' 'Easy To Be Free,' 'Honky Tonk Woman' and 'Garden Party.'