Charles Nelson. Senior high school yearbook picture, 1951.
Charles Nelson on the Internet Movie Database
Charles Nelson with Richard Widmark
Forecourt Ceremony held on Sunday, April 24, 1949
Born: September, 21, 1933, in Salina, Kansas
Age at the time of the ceremony: 15
Died: June 6, 2003, in Orange County, California, age 70
Charles Nelson was a young man who, after winning the nation-wide Talent Quest contest as a baritone singer, placed his imprints in the Forecourt as part of his prize. Nelson went on to assail the entertainment business, and enjoyed some success, but far away from the glare of Hollywood.

Talent Quest was a talent contest held by National Theatres (parent holding company of Fox West Coast Theatres — operators of the Chineae at the time) in early 1949. Contestants vied for a grand prize of $1,000 cash, and a screen test for 20th Century-Fox. Local contest entrants competed on Monday, January 31, 1949, at the 550 theatres in 20 states controlled by National Theatres. 15,000 contestants nationwide entered the contest, with Nelson performing at the Fox Watson Theatre in his hometown of Salina, Kansas, winning $25. Four weeks later, he would compete against the four weekly winners at the Fox Watson, where he came out on top in early March.

Next was the district finals, held coincidentally in Salina at the Fox Watson on Thursday, March 24, 1949. Having the homecourt advantage must have paid off for Nelson, who was up against stiff competition from a pair of tap dancers and a marimbist. He won and was given an all-expense-piad trip to Kansas City, where he would compete at the regional finals held at the Fox Tower Theatre, on Monday, April 4, 1949.

Winning this contest by singing the Paul Whiteman / Bing Crosby hit "Without a Song," Nelson secured his ticket to Hollywood — along with his mother Vivian, of course — converging on Hollywood with the other eight regional final winners from Denver, Milwaukee, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake City and other cities.

The finalists were shown around town (which is where the photo of Nelson along with Shirley Temple and Sid Grauman comes from. Then, the final finals were held onstage at the Chinese on Wednesday, April 20, 1949 at 8:30 PM, along with the films Down to the Sea in Ships and Miranda. The Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Dick Haynes, along with Eddie Bracken and a full orchestra, led by Manny Harmon (1899-2003).

Acts were judged on the basis of audience applause and by a panel of judges: Ivan Kahn, excutive talent scout for 20th Century-Fox, Milton Lewis, executive talent scout for Paramount Pictures, and John Kingsley, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

Nelson won the contest by signing the Robert MacGimsey song, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego," Walt Whitman's "Song of the Open Road" set to music by Norman Dello Joio, and "Without a Song." The second place finisher was Gordon Leigh, a 13-year-old boy soprano from Seattle, third place went to Alfred Purcell, a 13-year-old concert pianist from Alhambra, and fourth place went to Albert Uhalde, a baritone from San Francisco.

After placing his imprints in the Forecourt of the Chinese, Nelson went on to appear on the radio programs of Horace Heidt and Eddie Cantor. Returning to Salina, Nelson appeared on Kay Kyser's College of Fun and Knowledge over ABC radio, and was in a trail run of Ken Murray's Blackouts of 1949, which moved (with Nelson) to Broadway from September to October, 1949.

Nelson returned to the high school routine of books, basketball, and music. By the time of his graduation from high school, he was the quarterback on the football team, a guard on the basketball team, was on the track team, starred in the production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore (his singing coach was high school teacher Paul Ryberg), was on the yearbook staff, and was a member of the music club, the Spanish club, the student council (he was vice-president), the National Athletic Society, the National Junior Honor Society, and was a letterman.

Upon graduation, Nelson attened music school, but had to drop out due to the ill health of his parents. In 1952, he signed a contract to make recordings with Columbia. He took over for an ailing Merv Griffin at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and remained there for two years, where he performed with all the top singers of that era. He also got married to Becky Steiner. "Chuck" Nelson appeared in a Universal short called The Mills Brothers on Parade (released in June, 1956).

Now divorced, Nelson joined Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians in 1957, where he toured as one of the band's soloists. Remarried to Angela Marie, another singer with the Waring group, the pair had a daughter, Lauri Ann, in 1958. The Waring gig ended in 1962.

Nelson then settled down for a gig at the Gypsy Cellar restaurant in San Diego as part-owner. He moved to Orange County in the mid 1980s, but his hearth began to faulter. He died of a heart attack in 2003, at the age of 70.
Caption TK
Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California. Shirley Temple, Talent Quest contestant Charles Nelson, and Sid Grauman enjoy a moment behind the curtain in a photo dated April 18, 1949.
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