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Garden Party Lyrics

Artist: Ricky Nelson

Garden Party

- Artist: Rick Nelson
- peak Billboard position # 6 in 1972
- inspired by Rick's experience at a Madison Square Garden concert
- Words and Music by Rick Nelson

I went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories and play our songs again
When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name
No one recognized me, I didn't look the same

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

People came from miles around, everyone was there
Yoko brought her walrus, there was magic in the air
'n' over in the corner, much to my surprise
Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan's shoes wearing his disguise


lott-in-dah-dah-dah, lot-in-dah-dah-dah

Played them all the old songs, thought that's why they came
No one heard the music, we didn't look the same
I said hello to "Mary Lou", she belongs to me
When I sang a song about a honky-tonk, it was time to leave


lot-dah-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah)

Someone opened up a closet door and out stepped Johnny B. Goode
Playing guitar like a-ringin' a bell and lookin' like he should
If you gotta play at garden parties, I wish you a lotta luck
But if memories were all I sang, I rather drive a truck


lot-dah-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah)

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

Transcribed by Robin Hood


by mia on 5/20/2008 1:37pm
i love this song so much my dad just taught it to me recently
thnx ricky nelson!!!! RIP!!!
by Rod on 5/23/2008 11:20pm
Song speaks to me
by BW on 5/30/2008 1:26pm
Dwight Yoakam sang this at the Stagecoach Festival in CA earlier this month and did an awesome job. There's a video on YouTube.
by jcl on 6/5/2008 6:33pm
Loved this song since '72.
by VingThor/Bobby~T on 7/13/2008 9:58am
When Rick Nelson appeared at The Rock Revival at Madison Square Garden in 1971, he was unaware that he was to appear in clothing from the era of the height of his popularity. Not aware of this he appeared in contemporary clothing and was booed because of this. Afterwards, and as a result of this, he wrote the hit song, "Garden Party".
by morgan on 7/24/2008 10:57pm
this is the sexiest song ever! Luv it!
by Dick Dada 8/25/2008 11:20 am on 8/25/2008 1:23pm
Aware that this might be the best rock n roll song ever--from a real rocker--we thought was square, I listen never
by Rob K on 8/27/2008 3:57pm
Had the privilage of listening to and meeting Matthew & Gunnar on a Royal Carribbean cruise last month----shaking hands with them and hearing them speak was a true extention of their dad----Rick's fan club was the only one i ever belonged to--always carry his music with me----Thank you Rick & sons
by Rembrandt Pussyhorse on 10/4/2008 10:07pm
Went to a mile high party
To smoke me some cocaine
you shoulda heard the pilot scream when he saw the flames
by Dan on 10/23/2008 1:57pm
Umm, I think you got your facts wrong VingThor, it had nothing to do with his clothes, people who went to that concert expected him to sing his old popular songs, instead he sang his new songs and the crowd booed him, that's why he wrote Garden Party...
by nikki on 11/4/2008 7:41am
i heard this song and now i just tell myself when things get hard, 'you cant please everyone, so ya gotta please yourself!'
by Lisa on 11/13/2008 10:57pm
Can someone tell me what Yoko brought her walrus means?
by J on 11/18/2008 9:54am
It means, Yoko and John Lennon. Lennon Wrote "I am a Walrus"
by Bryan on 11/20/2008 9:30am
"I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo ga joob."

John Lennon, lead vocals on "I Am the Walrus" off of the album "Magical Mystery Tour" by the Beatles.
by anybody can play on 12/5/2008 11:03pm
now hmm you would think dylan woulda been hip to the things thinks that ricky was experiencin...
you would think?
by The Gremlin on 1/7/2009 1:53pm
There's another explaination to this song/story. Rick THOUGHT he was being booed and wrote the song. But some have maintained that poeple weren't booing HIM. They were booing the police behind him (this WAS the 70s) who were moving people away from the stage. Great song. One of the first I ever learned to play on gutiar.
by asokan on 1/21/2009 1:45am
oh, rick i love you, i love you more than i love my wife. with a voice like yours, you are sure to sing in heaven in the presence of God. thanks thanks
by harrypianoman on 2/1/2009 12:18pm
I was a part-time disk jockey as a high school senior about the time Ricky Nelson became an overnight success and I still like many of his songs such as "Travelin' Man" and "Hello Mary Lou" and others. But "Garden Party" is my all time favorite. I was curious about the walrus and the reference to Mr. Hughes whom I had always thought was Howard Hughes. I just researched this online and see that the walrus referred to John Lennon who accompanied Yoko to the Madison Square Garden concert in 1971. I also discovered that Mr. Hughes referred to George Harrison who was a friend of Riok's and was also at the concert in a disguise. I'm finally glad to learn the apparently true story of the lyrics.
by Rob Russell on 2/7/2009 7:11pm
I grew up watching the "adventures of the Nelsons"...this was my my all time favorite song of his....RIP
by BOOPOP12 on 3/18/2009 8:34pm
my papaw let me listen to his cd's and I heard this song and I loved it!I listened to it twice and just like that I learned it
by Barbara and Dave on 4/30/2009 8:59pm
I iterate the following; We too had the privilage of listening to and meeting Matthew & Gunnar on a Royal Carribbean cruise this past week (Apr 19-27 2009) shaking hands with them and hearing them speak was a true extention of their dad. They are true gentlemen, stood in line for hours signing their CD's and allowing photo shoots. All of our group was teary-eyed over their incredible singing of their dad's songs, and Gunnar's comments about our Military and their support of our military! I loved Ricky Nelson! Gunnar and Matthew, we feel your dad is proud of you both, as are all of us! Please let us know when you are in Washington State!
Love, Barbara and Dave & friends/ Seattle
by k.c. on 5/9/2009 10:46pm
my dad has this song and i was listening to the cd ,so when it came to the song i felt like i new it so i found out i loved this song when i was little so i've never stoped thinking about it!!!!!!!!!!:)
by cleader on 6/20/2009 1:47pm
I named my son after him. Still love him!
by Dan on 10/8/2009 8:39am
A good version of this song on John Fogerty's new album with two Eagles, Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit singing on it - always been Rick Nelson's best song - I think of my deceased cousin every time I hear it - we used to sing along to it when we were teenagers
by Rose on 11/11/2009 4:49pm
I am turning 50 and have had many people disappoint me in my life.I love the chorus of this song as it has become my motto.
by Craig on 12/25/2009 4:23am
Merry Christmas to all! Having been a broadcaster for many years I can tell you first hand that Garden Party is and always will be a very popular song. The early 70s brought us some incredible music. For me, Garden Party leads the pack! God bless!
by Lily on 2/1/2010 12:47pm
Really like this song..used to always watch Nelson family...Ricky was so cool...Having a 50th birthday party for a friend and the theme will be Garden Party...using this song as the theme. thanks...:)
by Bertie on 3/5/2010 6:41pm
Thanks everyone for explaining some of the lyrics. I always watched "Ozzie @ Harriet" and loved Ricky. It was my favorite song and still is.
by Ang on 5/3/2010 3:57pm
Love this song!
by Karen Dodd on 5/10/2010 9:45pm
I grew up watching "The Ozzie and Harriet Show" and so when the nelson boys came to play at our Calico Ghost town on Mothers day ,my husband took me to see them. They sang alot of their fathers songs and told us the history of their dad. It was an awesome performance. After the show ,they stayed to sign cds, and photos , letting everyone get pictures takin with them. They were very nice and friendly and we all stayed to watch the second show. good work boys and your parents should be very proud of you
by Cowgirl1153 V. on 5/16/2010 8:03pm
Ricky Nelson Your Son's do you Proud. Where can I get a Schedule of Matthew & Gunner's Tour? Are They going to be in Texas, Ark. or La. this Year? Ricky Isn't Dead,,He Live's In His Son's, Nelson Family, Friends and Fan's!!
GOOD LUCK! May you have An Amazing Tour and Bring Smiles to ALL! God Bless You.
by Spencer M. on 6/7/2010 6:12am
Thank God for Ricky, his parents, his sons, and this America!
by abigail on 7/5/2010 2:01pm
I like paty and garden
by Judy 8/21/10 on 8/21/2010 5:28pm
I love Rick Nelson...saw him in concert in Denver when I was 13...always wanted to marry him. RIP, Rick
by Jim on 9/5/2010 10:08am
Rick and company always bring me home since 1972
by mickey on 10/7/2010 3:20pm
ricky did not die from drug related storries/his plane ,a ww2 rehab/was mostly magnesium/due to the metal shortage at the time/faulty heater sparked fire back of plane was like a sparkler/pilots survived landing as fire devastated the rear only/get the story straight
by Richard on 10/18/2010 on 10/18/2010 9:12am
Who is Johnny B. Goode? The only person I can think of is John Denver. Anyone Know?
by chuckbarry on 11/2/2010 12:03am
Johnny Be Good 1958 song by Chuck Berry and number 7 on Rolling Stone top 500 songs....
by john fogerty on 12/31/2010 6:26am
John fogerty has the best versiln of this song=) with the blue ridge rangers=)
by Wendellyn Plummer on 1/15/2011 3:28pm
After hearing the song on Men of a Certain Age, I realized that at this stage of my life "I" need to please myself. Mr. Nelson said it all.
by Maxwell Plumm on 2/23/2011 3:42am
I love this song. It has to be one of my favourites of all time.
by Barbara Rich on 3/25/2011 9:05pm
Such an awesome song......It speaks to everyone, who cannot relate to these lyrics.......Thank you Rick Nelson.....We all miss you.
by Zakhele Gamede on 4/13/2011 2:31am
This is excellent, i was taught this song by both my Aunts, Uncles (Mqapheli) and my beloved Grand Father (Simon Ngazane Gamede)
My their soul Rest In Peace
by alien on 4/23/2011 6:44pm
Out of all these comments the only thing that confuses me is this: what the hell is a pawpaw???
by JDS on 4/27/2011 7:25am
This song seems to characterize a troubled and lost generation of young people who looked for testimonials and ways to enalble a selfish and narcisssistic lifestyle. Sadly, the people who were lost then, are, many of them, still lost with only vain memories and illusions of self-grandeur still the driving force of their lives. May the Lord bless them and release them from this darkened condition so that they might know the light of His love and His saving grace through His Word of truth. The Lord can take away the orginal sin of disobedience that was introduced at that first "garden party" and help those who would trust in Him and call on His name for deliverance and salvation. The Lord is the one we need to please (rather than pleasing ourselves).
by Conley639 on 5/30/2011 2:01am
Ricky Nelson was always known as a "family" pop icon. When the acid rock movement came about he tried to become like the acid rock musicians, taking drugs and stepping away from his roots and who he truly was as an artist. The thing about "acid rock" is it is what it is and the artist are what they are. You cannot mimic that, the fans could spot a fake a mile away....hints he NEVER has a hit during his wannabe acid rock scene. Madison Square Garden was his wake up call...this song is about his experience. Just because you know people doesn't mean that you can become one of them. This song was taking him back to his roots and it was the last hit before his tragic and fatal plane crash.
by debbie on 7/16/2011 10:15pm
Lol ... this song was written after Nelson did a reunion concert at the madison square garden and got booed. Yoko ono john lennon (her Walrus) and mr. Hughes hid in dylans shoes referrs to george harrison who at the time was rumored to be working on a album with bob dylan. George always signed in at hoyels as george hughes.
by by vm on7/30/2011 11:32 AM on 7/30/2011 10:33am
Many of my friends and I(from the same high school) were at the garden party that night. We were standing on the press tables way up in the garden and danced all night. We would form a ring around the whole garden holding hands and dancing. It was one of the best memories I've had from that time. We attended many of the rock and roll revivals. Each one had different artists from the 50s. They all sang and revived their old songs. I loved Rick Nelson too, but he started singing new songs that he created and no one wanted to hear them hence the booing began. I didn't think it was fair, but he turned those memories into a big hit. I will still hear "Garden Party" on the radio and think back to those happy times during that tumultous era. It was sad he died so young.
by Kathy Blackwell on 8/14/2011 4:04pm
Being 60y/o this song was my theme since I heard it...gotta please yourself and I have...fu if you don't like it...:)
by jan on 8/18/2011 2:04pm
amazing song he was booed beacuse they wanted ricky not rick
by brianne beadle on 10/4/2011 12:03am
i love ricky nelson!
by Nick on 11/17/2011 10:15pm
He was booed off the stage because he covered The Rolling Stones 'Honky Tonk Woman', the crowd didn't like it..hence the lines in his song - "When I sang a song about a honky-tonk, it was time to leave", and how he felt about the whole ordeal afterward "But if memories were all I sang, I rather drive a truck"......It did make for a good song though.
by JJ on 1/10/2012 5:10pm
It is pretty pathetic that a story destroyed Ricks name. The cause of the plane crash that took his life was an electrical fire in the cockpit. But we never saw that on the front page did we!!!
by JKD on 1/25/2012 1:16pm
took this to heart in '72, now trying to send the message to MY kids
by JLew on 1/26/2012 6:15am
Glad to finally learn the true meaning behind this song. I always thought a song about an orgy in which Rick was unable to perform well so he went into the corner to "please himself" was a tad too progressive for him.
by a soler on 2/1/2012 12:20am
Love the song means fans dot accept hm in his new look. They wanted the old ricky had to go back to the old one every one loved. Great meanlngfull song
by flyer on 2/15/2012 3:12pm
The cause of the plane crash (it was a DC-3, WWII era)was that the kerosene heater in the back of the aircraft exploded into flame and burned out the control cables to the rudder and elevator. The pilot had no control as a result. There were rumors about cocaine being cooked in the plane, but they were false.
by Lost Soul Critic on 3/5/2012 4:33pm
As legends and rumors always surround great achievements, and great achievers, I will share one that I heard (but, can't substantiate). The line "I'd rather drive a truck" was originally penned "I'd rather f*** a duck", But being from the fifties era, and wanting it to be played freely on the radio (both AM & FM) Ricky conceded to change it to the more innocuous phrase that was recorded.
by Alissar on 4/11/2012 5:09am
It is boring with out the tune but it is a great song please play it for me thank u
by Stan the man on 5/25/2012 4:56am

Love the chorus line about pleasung your self! Fantastic..especially doing the right thing and not caving in to pressure!
by jim on 6/4/2012 8:18pm
you lift out the last line: "If Memories if all I sang Id rather drive a truck."
by Ásgeir on 6/27/2012 5:05pm
Ricky was first of all a ballad singer, like Elvis! By accident both of them jumped into R&R. Ricky´s rockers have faded, but the ballads like "Poor little Fool" "There Will Never Be Anyone Else" " Mary Lou" are everlasting, not to forget "Garden Party"!
by Scotty on 7/1/2012 4:16pm
His song is so inspirational, every time I listen to it, I cry, and always think of how I can be a better person. Thank you Ricky for always being there!
by Djwisconsin on 8/9/2012 12:06pm
I just read liner notes from very best of Rick Nelson and guitarist Allan kemp said there was a fight in the crowd and thats where the booing came from so thr
Ey were not booing Rick dj
by Sunny on 8/27/2012 11:19am
Dear should never have had to endure this, altho you were probably mistaken when you thought it was aimed at you. A good thing came out of it, your inspirational song. It has served us well. Who we are is good enough! I was your fan when you sang your first song on the Ozzie and Harriet Show! Still love your music.
by beckintime on 10/30/2012 5:53pm
i was 13 when this song hit the local radio station. Love it right to tis day
by OPT on 1/1/2013 4:25pm
phish rocked this last night!!!
by GNPHSHN on 1/2/2013 1:47am
Phish opened their garden party rocking this last night!
by Phishphan on 1/7/2013 3:02am
Very memorable song and great opener to an incredible New Year's Eve concert by Phish.
by Ted on 3/20/2013 8:51am
This song was written about the Boston Garden "party".
All true.
by ThankGod Awesome Okojie on 1/6/2014 9:57pm
Truely a great legend @Riky ,first heard the song done by owl city! Great inspiration!!! But what did he meant wen he said "Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan's shoes wearing
his disguise"???
by Anne on 5/17/2014 7:26am
We finally recorded Garden Party for our 15 th Annual Garden Party today. I didn't know the meaning of the lyrics well, though my husband had the story. Now I understand. He has turned a bad experience into a favorite song for people of all ages. Rock on Ricky! You left us too soon.
by rezdog64 on 9/14/2014 6:19pm
Yo Lisa , it meens that she brought her dog Lennon , you know "I am the walrus Koo Koo Ga Choo "
by rezdog64 on 9/14/2014 6:25pm
Mr. Hughs was also featured in AC/DC's "Ain't no fun" as well , if ya all are old enought to remember brother " Bonny Scott " no mister there he'ld of hated that!!!
by fireman bob sawyer on 10/22/2014 6:46pm
trying to print this out has become a nightmare.
by donnniebob on 2/11/2015 11:43am
Big hit when I was in high school.
It really finally meant something to me when I returned to my hometown with long hair and a beard. HS principal told me he was ahamed of me for looking like I did. Ricky was right: You Can't Please Everyone, so....
by Jamma on 2/20/2015 9:51am
The world still misses you, Rick
by Jim on 3/4/2015 11:43am
Saw Ricky Nelson in the spring of 73 in OKC. He really put on a show. This was my wife and my first date. This song means a lot
by Sergeant Major on 3/24/2015 6:28pm
Thanks for all the fine memories of Rick Nelson folks. You made my evening. I loved him too.
by Betsy on 1/13/2016 1:44am
Only the good die young.
by MSA7488@ATT.NET on 1/27/2016 12:35pm
by Bob Nauheimer on 6/22/2016 5:13pm
I was at that show at Madison Square Garden that night.Ricky nelson surprised everyone by coming out in a sequined jump suit but everyone loved it when he sang his old songs. Then he sang a new song that no one ever heard of and followed by singing the Rolling Stones" Honky Tonk Woman. At that point everyone started Booing him and he ran off the stage. I had really good seats and couldn't see any cops at all.
by dan vasquez on 12/9/2016 10:26pm

enjoyed all the comments and learned from them ty
god bless him and his memory
by Kathy on 5/17/2017 1:11pm
I've been very troubled lately. Married 40 yrs and 3 grown sons. Dedicated my life to them. I look back and wonder. Little to no thanks for raising them being faithful...lately I sing Ricky Nelson Garden Party. It makes me feel fine not selfish. As a Christian I love Jesus. Follow Him. "Love thy neighbor as thy thyself." You must love & respect yourself to love and respect others. Thanks RN....great memories that linger!
by Dave Kiebert on 6/8/2017 5:37pm
Every once in a while, when I get paranoid and think I've done something wrong and everyone is out to get me, I think of this song and smile, feeling better. I wonder what cousin Dave Nelson -- if he's still alive -- thinks of this song?
by Barb on 8/29/2017 1:51pm
I strongly agree with JDS on 4/27/2011.
by David Riske on 9/10/2022 9:39pm
This is a fantastic song with IMO one of the greatest lines I've ever heard, "If memories are all I sang, I'd rather drive a truck."

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