Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Disney Song #69: The Ballad of Davy Crockett

To Listen:  Click Here

The Facts:
  • Writers: George Bruns (music), Thomas W. Blackburn (lyrics)
  • Performers: Several
  • Year: 1954
  • Key:  E Major

Heard In: 
Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier

On December 15, 1954, the nation was first introduced to Disney's portrayal of the legendary frontiersman when the initial episode of the 5 part miniseries Davy Crockett aired on the Sunday night Disneyland series on ABC.  The very next day, Bill Hayes recorded his version of the song which soon topped the charts, and Crockett-mania was born.  My father was 7 years old at the time and remembers getting swept up in the craze.  He recalls:

The Sunday night show was introduced by Walt Disney with one of the four Disneyland themed lands being featured. Davy Crockett was obviously Frontierland. The episodes were immensely popular, so I believe a movie was eventually put together.

I have a photo of myself as a boy (probably about 8 years old) wearing a Davy Crockett raccoon cap; I suspect it was a popular fashion accessory for boys in 1955-1956. The catchy song from the show plus Fess Parker's appealing portrayal of Davy added up to a very successful Disney film. 

The first three episodes of the Davy Crockett miniseries were edited together to create a full length feature called Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (the other two episodes became the movie Davy Crockett and the River Pirates).  The song came from the series and was then covered many times over, including by Bill Hayes, Fess Parker (the actor who played Crockett), The Wellingtons, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Mac Wiseman.  I'm not sure who sang the version from the movie -- the Wikipedia article about the song makes it sound like it was The Wellingtons, but their rendition sounds very different from the link at the top of the post.

Musically Speaking:
Hard not to like this song -- it is one catchy tune.  In fact, I fear that perhaps I have it ranked a bit too low.  Of all the versions, the one I like the best is actually the one that can be heard in the DVD menu for the 2004 release (which I got from the library).  I wish I could find the arrangement online somewhere but I can't -- it sounds like the original but with a modern touch. Excellent stuff.

Personal Connection:
I did just rent the DVD set (includes both movies) and got through the first fifteen minutes or so. It's good and I'm enjoying it but unfortunately am just too busy at the moment to watch the whole thing, and I didn't want to hold up the post any longer.  But perhaps some day I will get to watch more of it.  Based on the brief part that I did see, I can understand why it became such a sensation.  There's the song, the frontier setting, and Fess Parker who is quite charismatic as Crockett, which my father alluded to.

And I do remember the Davy Crockett Canoes in Disney World from when I was a kid (they closed in 1994 but are still open in Disneyland).  The riders were each given an oar and then paddled the canoe in a lake and went in a loop around Tom Sawyer's Island.

In the next post, I'll explore Crockett-mania in greater detail when I share with you my conversation with the great Bill Hayes.  


  1. Were you aware at all of the 1988-89 Davy Crockett remake on NBC that featured Johnny Cash as a regular? I was 11 when it was on and don't recall loving it but just curious if you were old enough then to have followed it at all.

    1. No, I had never heard of that series. I just looked it up and noticed a few familiar MacGyver names (Garry Chalk, Brenda Crichlow, Blu Mankuma).