The Ballad of Davy Crockett

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"The Ballad of Davy Crockett"
Single by Bill Hayes
B-side "Farewell"
Released 1955
Format 45 rpm record
Genre Folk
Label Cadence
Composer(s) George Bruns
Lyricist(s) Thomas W. Blackburn

"The Ballad of Davy Crockett" is a song with music by George Bruns and lyrics by Thomas W. Blackburn. It was introduced on ABC's television series Disneyland, in the premiere episode of October 27, 1954. Fess Parker is shown performing the song on a log cabin set in frontiersman clothes, accompanied by similarly attired musicians. The song would later be heard throughout the Disneyland television miniseries Davy Crockett, first telecast on December 15, 1954. Parker played the role of Davy Crockett and continued in four other episodes made by Walt Disney Studios. It was sung by The Wellingtons. Buddy Ebsen co-starred as George "Georgie" Russel, and Jeff York played legendary boatman Mike Fink.

Archie Bleyer, the president of Cadence Records, heard the song on the ABC telecast (December 15, 1954) and called Bill Hayes that night to gauge his interest in recording it. The next day, Hayes (vocals), Al Caiola (guitar), and Art Ryerson (guitar) recorded it in one take at an RCA studio in Manhattan.[1] Other versions by Fess Parker[2] and Tennessee Ernie Ford (recorded on February 7, 1955) quickly followed. All three versions made the Billboard magazine charts in 1955: Hayes' version made #1 on the weekly chart (from March 26 through April 23) and #7 for the year, Parker's reached #6 on the weekly charts and #31 for the year, while Ford's peaked at #4 on the weekly country chart and #5 on the weekly pop chart and charted at #37 for the year. A fourth version, by bluegrass singer Mac Wiseman, reached #10 on the radio charts in May 1955.[3] The song also reached #1 on the Cash Box charts, from March 26 through May 14, 1955. A contemporary version also exists by Western singing group the Sons of the Pioneers. Over ten million copies of the song were sold.[4]

In the United Kingdom, Hayes' version reached #2 in the New Musical Express chart; Ford's version achieved #3, and a version by UK singer Max Bygraves reached #20. Several other British artistes recorded versions in 1955 and 1956, including Billy Cotton, Gary Miller, Ronnie Ronalde and Dick James.

Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.[5]

The Crockett craze

Walt Disney Productions launched a massive marketing campaign in the UK in 1955 to publicize the film Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (released in Britain in 1956) and to make the country's youth "Crockett conscious". There was already a "Crockett craze" in the U.S., where the episodes had become wildly popular. Crockett merchandise was produced en masse, the most iconic item being the imitation coonskin cap. The craze became immensely popular amongst schoolchildren, and the ballad made its way across the Atlantic Ocean.[6] A French version by Annie Cordy was number 1 for 5 weeks in France in August 1956.

United States Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee wore a Davy Crockett cap during the 1956 campaign, as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee. Adlai Stevenson and Kefauver lost in the general election to incumbents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.

The Crockett phenomenon is referenced in books of the time such as Back in the Jug Agane, one of the Molesworth series by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle.

The craze was referenced in the film Back to the Future, which is set predominantly in 1955. In the film, the Fess Parker version of the song is heard on a jukebox inside Lou's Diner and, in a later scene, one of Lorraine Baines' brothers appears wearing a coonskin cap. The song is sung by the characters Henry and Sammy in the Country Bear Jamboree. The 2009 film Fantastic Mr. Fox opens with the eponymous fox playing the song on his belt radio.

Parodies

Several parodies were issued in 1955, including "Duvid Crockett" by Mickey Katz; "Pancho Lopez" by Eduardo Lalo Guerrero; "Ole Svenson" by Yogi Yorgesson; and "The Ballad of Davy Crew-Cut" by Homer and Jethro. In the South Park episode "Raising the Bar", James Cameron plays the song during his underwater voyage to literally "raise the bar" for morality's sake, except this version replaces Davy Crockett with James Cameron himself, therefore being a parody.

Covers

References

  1. ^ "Bill Hayes: A Conversation". The MacGyver Project. 
  2. ^ DAVY CROCKETT (TV 1954) George Bruns – Recordman #110
  3. ^ Billboard, May 28, 1955, Most Played By Jockeys, p. 58
  4. ^ Reporter-News Online: Texas News – The life, legend of Davy Crockett Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. 
  6. ^ Opie, The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 223. ISBN 0-89820-177-2. 

External links

  • Cashbox charts, 1955
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