Garden Party (Rick Nelson song)

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"Garden Party"
Garden Party - Rick Nelson and The Stone Canyon Band.jpg
Single by Rick Nelson and The Stone Canyon Band
from the album Garden Party
GenreCountry rock[1]
LabelDecca Records
Songwriter(s)Rick Nelson
Producer(s)Rick Nelson
Rick Nelson and The Stone Canyon Band singles chronology
"Gypsy Pilot"
"Garden Party"
"Palace Guard"

"Garden Party" is a 1972 hit song written by Rick Nelson and recorded by him and the Stone Canyon Band on the album Garden Party. The song tells the story of Nelson being booed off the stage at a concert at Madison Square Garden.

The concert[edit]

On October 15, 1971, Richard Nader's Rock 'n Roll Revival concert was given at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The playbill included many greats of the early rock era, including Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Bobby Rydell.

Nelson came on stage dressed in the then-current fashion, wearing bell-bottoms and a purple velvet shirt, with his hair hanging down to his shoulders. He started playing his older songs like "Hello Mary Lou", but then he played the Rolling Stones' "Country Honk" (a country version of their hit song "Honky Tonk Women") and the crowd began to boo. While some reports say that the booing was caused by police action in the back of the audience, Nelson took it personally and left the stage. He watched the rest of the concert backstage and did not reappear on stage for the finale.

The song[edit]

"Garden Party" tells of various people who were present, frequently in an oblique manner ("Yoko brought her Walrus", referring to Yoko Ono and John Lennon), with a chorus:

But it's all right now, I've learned my lesson well
You see, you can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself

One more reference in the lyrics pertains to a particularly mysterious and legendary audience member: "Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan's shoes, wearing his disguise". The Mr. Hughes in question was ex-Beatle George Harrison, who was a next-door neighbor and good friend of Nelson's. Harrison used "Hughes" as his traveling alias, and "hid in Dylan's shoes" most likely refers to an album of Bob Dylan covers that Harrison was planning but never recorded. "Wearing his disguise" also suggests that Harrison traveled incognito.

The phrases "Out stepped Johnny B. Goode / Playing guitar, like a-ringing a bell" refer to Chuck Berry and his song, "Johnny B. Goode".

Lyric references[edit]

  • A garden party - October 15, 1971's Rock 'n Roll Revival concert at Madison Square Garden, New York City
  • My old friends - fellow performers at the concert Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Bobby Rydell
  • Yoko - Yoko Ono
  • Yoko's walrus - John Lennon
  • Mr. Hughes - George Harrison
  • (Mr. Hughes) hid in Dylan's shoes - Harrison's planned (but later abandoned) album of Bob Dylan covers
  • I said hello to Mary Lou, she belongs to me - Nelson's song "Hello Mary Lou", which he played at the concert; also a reference to "She Belongs to Me", a Bob Dylan song covered by Nelson
  • I sang a song about a Honky-Tonk - The Rolling Stones song "Country Honk", the song that allegedly caused the booing
  • And it was time to leave - Nelson's subsequent departure
  • Out stepped Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry's song "Johnny B. Goode"
  • Playing guitar like a-ringing a bell - the line in "Johnny B. Goode", "he could play guitar just like a-ringing a bell"
  • I'd rather drive a truck - Elvis Presley worked for a time as a truck driver, having famously been told after several failed auditions to "stick to truck driving because you're never going to make it as a singer"


"Garden Party" reached number six on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the fall of 1972; it was Nelson's last top 40 hit on the US pop charts. The song also topped the Billboard easy listening chart for two weeks[2] and reached number 44 on Billboard's Country Singles chart. The song likewise reached number six in both Australia and South Africa[3] and number one in Canada.[4]


Ricky Nelson re-recorded "Garden Party" with The Jordanaires and studio musicians for his 1985 album All My Best.

Country singer Johnny Lee recorded a cover version of the song in the late 1970s, entitled "Country Party", with slightly altered lyrics. Dwight Yoakam has also performed it live in concert. In 2000 Tarsha Vega sampled "Garden Party" in her song "Be Ya Self" for the soundtrack for The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

The UK band, Smokie, recorded a cover of the song.[5]

In 2009, John Fogerty recorded the song with the Eagles' Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit, for his The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again album.

In 2012, Adam Young of Owl City covered the song and released it to his SoundCloud and personal blog followers. The song was pulled off of SoundCloud in late 2015, but can still be found on YouTube.

On December 31, 2012, Phish opened their New Year's Eve concert with the song at Madison Square Garden.[6] Phish bassist and singer Mike Gordon, who sang lead on the tune, wore a shirt very reminiscent of the one George Harrison wore on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Gary Pig Gold recorded his own personal take on the song, which reflected an encounter with Rick himself and appeared, in 2013, on Pop Garden Radio's Legacy: A Tribute to Rick Nelson Volume 1 CD.

Tesla guitarist Frank Hannon covered the song, assisted by Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, on his 2018 solo album From One Place to Another Vol. 1.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fontenot, Robert. "What is Country Rock?". ThoughtCo. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition (Billboard Publications)
  3. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  4. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1972-11-18. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  5. ^ "Smokie Garden Party". YouTube. Smokie. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
  6. ^ "Setlists". Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  7. ^ "McCloud (TV Series): The New Mexican Connection (1972) : Trivia". Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  8. ^ "Road Trip: "Garden Party"". Retrieved 2016-02-27.

External links[edit]