Though best remembered as one of television's most famous moms, Harriet Nelson was also a celebrated big band singer during the heyday of swing. Born Peggy Lou Snyder in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1909, she joined Ozzie Nelson's orchestra as Harriet Hilliard in 1932, becoming only the second ever female vocalist featured in a big band (Mildred Bailey, with Paul Whiteman, was the first). Ozzie and Harriet hit it off personally as well as musically and were married in October of 1935. Their first son, David, was born in 1936, followed by Ricky in 1940. Harriet also made several films during the 1930s and early 1940s.
Though the orchestra continued to be successful up through the war years the Nelson's real family life began to figure into the image they presented, and in 1944 they gave up their music career to star in a radio situation comedy. In 1951 they made a feature film, Here Come the Nelsons, which preceded the debut of their television program. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet first aired in 1952 and ran for fifteen years on ABC, with Ozzie as producer and writer.
Harriet retired from show business after the series ended. She returned to the small screen in 1973 starring in the syndicated Ozzie's Girls, an updated version of the old series. She also appeared in several made-for-TV movies during the 1970s and the 1980s. Ozzie Nelson died in 1975. Harriet Nelson passed away in 1994 from congestive heart failure.