Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Boomers' First Fad

The first song I ever memorized (of my own volition) came from a television show theme:

Born on a mountain top in Tennessee,
Greatest state in the land of the free.
Raised in the woods so's he knew every tree
Killed him a bar when he was only three.
Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier.

I was reminded of the song and its catchy tune  while watching an episode of Pioneers of Television (PBS) on The Westerns, which were so popular in the 1950s that more than 30 different series hit the airwaves in 1959.

It was five years earlier when Fess Parker created the role of Davy Crockett and created the phenomenon of youngsters all across the country chasing Indians and outlaws through suburban backyards. In a matter of months, 10 million of us bought coonskin caps and some 3,000 other Crockett items that the Walt Disney marketing machine rolled out. The  half a billion dollars we spent  reportedly gave Walt the cash he needed to build Disneyland. Fess Parker (who would later go on to make a mighty fine wine) was so popular that after the Crockett mini series was finished, Disney moved him into the TV series Daniel Boone and sold some more coonskin caps.

One other interesting note from the documentary.  John Wayne turned down the role of Marshal Dillon when Gunsmoke was being moved from radio to television but recommended James Arness, an actor he had under contract at the time. Gunsmoke aired 635 episodes and Arness played Marshall Dillon for nearly 50 years.

Finally, thanks to Garrison Keillor for reminding us that  it was on this day in 1964 that the Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, attracting 63 million viewers. That compares to some 111 million who watched that other Sunday night show, the Superbowl. Wonder if there is a prize if you saw both events?  Maybe a coonskin cap.

He took off to Congress an' served a spell,
Fixin' up the governments and laws as well.
Took over Washington so we heered tell,
An' patched up the crack in the Liberty Bell.
Davy, Davy Crockett, seein' his duty clear.


  1. Hey I remember Elvis' first appearance on Sullivan as well as the others. What do I get?

  2. Also, I suppose you knew that the rugged Arness had a brother who was an actor - the sleek Peter Graves of "Mission Impossible" and "Airplane" fame.