March 26, 1955
One version or another of the song was on “Cash Box” and pop charts for three months. A quartet of recordings made it to “Billboard’s” coveted top ten.
Singer turned soap star, Bill Hayes, (right) got there first. Fess Parker, (above) Disney’s burly star of “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier,” took a turn at the mic to record the signature song, as well. It premiered on the hits list at number six. Tennessee Ernie Ford (below) made it to number four a few weeks later and bluegrass singer Mac Wiseman reached number ten in May.
The ditty was pretty much an in-house production. The music was composed by Disney’s own music director, George Edward Bruns, (below) responsible for scoring countless Disney movies. He composed the music for “Herbie the Love Bug,” “The Jungle Book” and won a 1974 Oscar nomination for “Best Original Song” with Disney’s hit, “Love” from “Robin Hood.”
The studio’s own story department writer, Thomas Blackburn, II, wrote the Davy Crockett lyrics. He also authored a number of screen plays for television and movies, including the 1956 “Westward Ho the Wagons.”
The Disney mega-hit theme song simply saturated the airwaves, more evidence of the Davy Crockett mania that swept the nation. It began with the original Disneyland television episode in October of 1954. Five episodes followed; Davy’s adventures as Indian fighter, congressman, Alamo defender, keel boat racer and river pirate kidnap victim.
The studio seemed to be as surprised as anyone by the popularity of the series. The company got over the shock quickly enough to make a fortune licensing Davy Crockett merchandise, however. Everything from kid’s night lights to bubble gum cards were snapped up by eager consumers. But the big seller was the Davy’s replica coonskin cap. (Above, portrait of Crockett doesn’t include a coonskin cap)
At the height of the Davy craze, it is estimated as many as 5,000 coonskin caps a day flew out of stores around the country. It is estimated that Davy Crockett merchandise resulted in more than $100,00 million in revenue.
Davy Crockett lunch boxes, still considered highly collectible.
More than half a century later, the coon skin cap still remains as one of the most iconic symbols of the 50s, serving as a cultural reference point in a variety of movies like “Back to the Future” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”
Presidential hopeful, North Carolina Senator Estes Kefauver, (left) took up wearing a coonskin cap at campaign stops in 1956, claiming a tentative connection to the frontier hero. The series was filmed in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
Capitalizing on the series’ popularity, Disney stitched together the first three episodes for a full-length movie, “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier.” The final two episodes were edited into a second feature film “Davy Crockett and the River Pirates.”
A number of miniseries based on history’s heros followed, including the legendary lawman, Alfego Baca, (left, Robert Loggia as Alfego Baca), Texas Ranger John Horton Slaughter and the Revolutionary War’s Swamp Fox, Francis Marion. None ever achieved the acclaim of Davy Crockett, however.
Parker starred in several Disney movies following Davy Crockett and played Daniel Boone (right, circa 1861 engraving) on television for six years, retiring from the screen in 1970. He started his own real estate business and later founded an award-winning winery in California’s Foxen Canyon. The actor died in 2010 at the age of 85 but his son and daughter and their families still run the winery today.
Replica coon skin caps appear in a number of museum collections around the country but if you have a hankering to see the real thing, the one Parker wore in the series is on display at Washington’s Smithsonian Institution.
The Fess Parker Winery is located 40 miles north of Santa Barbara, California. The winery’s Tasting Room was completed in 1994, its architecture modeled after an Australian sheep station. It features stone floors, large veranda and tasting bar which includes memorabilia from Parker’s television and movie career. A number of special events are held on the grounds all year. Fans and wine enthusiasts can leave with a bottle of the winery’s signature “Crockett” for $80. A selection of more moderately priced wines is available, as well, all rated by “Wine Enthusiast,” “Wine Spectator,” “Wine Advocate” and Antonio Galloni’s “Vinous.” For more information call toll-free (800) 841-1104 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
© Text Only – 2019 – Headin’ West LLC – All photos – public domain or fair use.
*Head On West strives for historic accuracy and uses a number of sources considered reliable. When research differs on significant facts, the various points of view will be cited.