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1954: ABC's Anthology Series 'Disneyland' Presents 'Davy Crockett'
December 15, 2019  | By David Bianculli  | 1 comment
On this day in 1954, ABC's anthology series, Disneyland, aired the first installment of Davy Crockett.

Born on a montaintop in Tennessee,

Greenest state in the land of the free.
Raised in the woods, so's he knew every tree,
Killed him a b'ar when he was only three:
Davy, Davy Crockett,
King of the wild frontier...

When you think of Davy Crockett, that theme song, "The Ballad of Davy Crockett," is not only the first thing you think of. It's the first thing they thought of.

When the first episodes of Davy Crockett were in the early planning stages for the anthology series Disneyland, Walt Disney commissioned staff composer George Bruns to work with the show's scriptwriter, Tom Blackburn, and create some music and lyrics that could serve to bridge the various scenes in the story. Bruns wrote the music and chorus, Blackburn wrote the rest of the lyrics, and a singer named Bill Hayes recorded and released the song as a record several months before the first episode of Davy Crockett was televised. The musical result was a surprise runaway hit: seven million copies sold in the first six months, making it, at that time, the fastest-selling record in history.

The mania continued when Davy Crockett premiered on Disneyland, catapulting Fess Parker to instant stardom — thus giving a whole new meaning to the term "Fess up." Buddy Ebsen, as sidekick George Russel, went along for the ride, and provided an early prototype for his Jed Clampett character on The Beverly Hillbillies.

Disney-approved replicas of Davy's coonskin caps sold in the millions, but Disney was less astute when it came to capitalizing on the TV show itself. Originally, there were only three episodes of Davy Crockett planned, and in the last one, "Davy Crockett at the Alamo," he was killed.

Shown a month apart, it wasn't until the final episode — the key word being final — that Disney realized what a hit he had on his hands. Unable to carry the story line forward, he follwed it backward, and before long there were two additional Davy Crockett episodes dramatizing his earlier exploits.

So, in addition to "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" and the coonskin caps, Disney's Davy Crockett gave us two TV milestones. The first three episodes of Davy Crockett, with the very finite "Alamo" ending, formed network TV's first original miniseries. The later, "earlier" episodes (if that makes any sense) formed the first recorded instance of what's now known as the "prequel."

And in one final example of Disney marketing saavy, all five episodes were recycled as theatrical films: The first three under the title of Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier, and the final two under the title Davy Crockett and the River Pirates. With Davy Crockett, Walt Disney didn't waste anything — except a lot of raccoons.

—Excerpted from Dictionary of Teleliteracy: Television's 500 Biggest Hits, Misses and Events

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This aired as I turned 3,so I have little recognition of the premiere of Walt's DC Universe(see what I did there). My oldest brother,an original boomer did see the first film in a theatre,but,outside of watching the story so big,so loud and so colorful,seemed to mean little in his memory. Our parents had the song,the Bill Hayes version,issued on Cadence,on 78. Odd that Davy,Fess Parker,also recorded a version for Columbia,sanctioned by Disney and it did pretty well. Back then,music statistics via Billboard or Cashbox magazine,separated sales and radio airplay. So Bill,Fess,Tennessee Ernie Ford &(thanks Wiki) bluegrass singer Mac Wiseman all charted versions. Disney sanctioned Parker's involvement,but it was brother Roy who wasn't going to let that pile of cash fall out from under his faux coonskin cap by outsourcing and in 1956 saw the start of Disneyland Records.
Dec 15, 2019   |  Reply
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