Nelson Ackerman Eddy was an American singer and movie star who appeared in 19 musical films during the 1930s and 1940s, as well as in opera and on the concert stage, radio, television, and in nightclubs. A classically trained baritone, he is best remembered for the eight films in which he costarred with soprano Jeanette MacDonald. He was one of the first "crossover" stars, a superstar appealing both to shrieking bobby-soxers as well as opera purists, and in his heyday was the highest paid singer in the world.
During his 40-year career, he earned three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, left his footprints in the wet cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater, earned three Gold records, and was invited to sing at the third inauguration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He also introduced millions of young Americans to classical music and inspired many of them to pursue a musical career.
Nelson Ackerman Eddy was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the only child of Caroline Isabelle and William Darius Eddy. His father was a machinist and toolmaker whose work required him to move from town to town. Nelson grew up in Providence and Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and in New Bedford, Massachusetts. As a boy, he was a redhead and quickly acquired the nickname "Bricktop." As an adult, his red hair was streaked with silver, so that his hair photographed as blond.
Nelson came from a musical family. His Atlanta-born mother was a church soloist, and his grandmother, Caroline Netta Ackerman Kendrick, was a distinguished oratorio singer. His father occasionally moonlighted as a stagehand at the Providence Opera House, sang in the church choir, played the drums, and performed in local productions such as H.M.S. Pinafore.