Here's another interview excerpt from Sam:
How did you become the estate manager for Ozzie and Harriet?
It probably started about four or five years ago. I had been working at Capitol Records in A&R in catalogue for about five years with these legacy artists – incredible talents like The Beach Boys, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and my dad.
I helped put together some pretty big projects over there that were very successful. It was the first time my dad had really shone in a long time, perhaps 30 years. Capitol was extremely surprised that he still had the voice.
While putting those projects together, my Uncle Dave got in touch with me. His health wasn’t great, but we weren’t sure how bad it was at that point. But I think he saw the success of the projects I had worked on through Capitol.
Being at Capitol and working on all these artists, I was like, My god, I’m basically doing all this work for something that I should instead be pursuing for my own family.
It was kind of a nice synergy when he called me in and said, “Listen, I want you to be co-captain with me on Ozzie and Harriet.” I think he felt confident with me in that position, and it was a good choice. It was perfect timing for me, and I dove right in.
What did you discover during your research process?
While Uncle Dave was still alive, I got into the vaults and began researching and collecting all the material. I was blown away how much material there was.
My grandfather, Ozzie, was meticulous. He kept three copies per episode (and per episode was six different reels) in the day and age when film was the only thing there was – no DVD players or digital recording to preserve anything.
So you can imagine the episodes alone that were available, not including four decades of radio/television Nelson family history in these vaults.
There were also sponsor spots, incredible commercials done by my family. These include Coca-Cola, Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix, Hotpoint appliances (owned by General Electric), and Kodak. I would love to be able to consolidate all of those and release them as bonus features or on a separate DVD.
Ozzie later produced a syndicated series called Ozzie’s Girls that ran during the 1973-1974 television season. I found the full season, so the idea is to ultimately use these episodes as a bonus feature on a DVD.
In addition to that, I located home movies, interviews, backstage footage, photographs, and music going through 1974 (Ozzie succumbed to liver cancer on June 3, 1975). You name it, it’s there. There will be a lot of performances from my father that nobody’s seen, so this project makes it especially exciting for his fans.
All of that stuff will be cleaned up and presented to the people. It’s kind of the chicken or the egg here. Because of the vast amount of material, it will be an extensive process getting all the footage ready for release.
The thing that’s amazing about Ozzie and Harriet is you can ask most people my age, “Do you know who Ozzie and Harriet is?” And most people will say, “Yeah I do.” But then you say, “Do you know what it is?” And they have no idea.
I thought, My god, what an incredible asset this is. Most companies spend their entire careers trying to brand something, but we have that. The show is much bigger than people give it credit for. I have a very big vision for it as a brand in the next two years – it’s not just a television show.
Now it’s just a matter of building a foundation. While looking through this mountain of Nelson stuff that was slowly deteriorating because it had been left alone for so many years, I began brainstorming about how to bring some life into it.
Where did you locate all these forgotten materials?
On January 11th of this year Uncle Dave passed away due to complications from colon cancer. So I had definitely had a task in front of me, as it was just me alone having to deal with everything.
There was consolidation, moving materials that had literally been forgotten in Arizona for 35 years. It had kind of been known that there were three or four “storage units.” Some were legitimate, but some were garages. I wouldn’t house an old jacket in some of those places, let alone 435 episodes of a television series.
I guess Uncle Dave and his management felt comfortable that the materials were safe, although they were in really bad shape and not doing well. When he passed, all of that information was handed down to me. It was a little bit of a mystery up to that point. They held their cards close to their chest about everything that way.
So I kept consolidating everything, and then I got to the point where I said, “It’s a new age today. We’re in an incredible position that the show has been out of the public consciousness for two decades, but people still inherently love the show. How can I make this work so we have people helping us on the one end and breathing new life into the show?”
What is your ultimate goal with Ozzie and Harriet?
First of all, the company needs to be rebuilt, so it’s not arbitrarily floating around like it has been this whole time. Actually, it was more of a trust or holding house. There was no hierarchy, no CEO, not even a true name for it.
The initial obvious stages would be a DVD release, a comprehensive box set. After the DVD release, broadcast in a multitude of capacities in any way, shape, or form. From there, I’d like to extend the show even further. The series carries a lot more weight that just being a television show – it has musical, historical, and sentimental components, respectively.
People inherently grew up with the show, so there’s this connection to it in a way there isn’t with other shows. The proof in the pudding. I put this project together on a whim to get folks involved. That it’s been successful thus far in such a short time is a testament that there is a desire out there for all things Nelson. And I want to do it right.
As things get building here, there’s a lot of work to do with Ozzie and Harriet. So I’ve got to get out of the corner and start getting more into the limelight. Hopefully people will start recognizing me as the face of Ozzie and Harriet. But I still like being a fly on the wall.