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 Posted:   Oct 26, 2008 - 12:32 PM   
 By:   Recordman   (Member)



“If any one event might be seen as the major impetus for Disney to have launched its own record label, that event was the world-wide success of over 200 different recorded versions of "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" in 1955! The story of the music for “Davy Crockett” is as fascinating as its success.

In the spring of 1954, plans for the Disney three-part television series on the life and times of true life American legend, Davy Crockett, were underway at the Disney Studios. It was felt that a common thread was needed to tie the three one hour segments together, as it covered over a twenty-year span of Crockett’s life. That thread proved to be a catchy theme song which provided a two minute plus overview of the Crockett legend. Composer George Bruns and lyrist Tom Blackburn were assigned the duties and came up with the song they titled, “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”, with twenty written verses.

Inasmuch as Disney was still relegated to having others distribute records for it, Jimmy Johnson initially wanted Alan Livingston at Capitol Records to produce and handle its distribution. However, Capitol thought to request even more of the Disney music rights beyond what Capitol was already producing in its highly popular and attractive, children’s record series.. Capitol wanted to form a “Disney” or “Disneyland” label which it would own. Disney declined this offer however, inasmuch as it needed Capitol only for distribution purposes. Perhaps sensing the upcoming popularity of the TV show, Disney decided to cut its own master records with Fess Parker, the star of the show, and three “storyteller” type records, one for each TV segment, featuring the original TV cast.

After the first segment in the TV Davy Crockett series aired on December 15, 1954 [”Davy Crockett - Indian Fighter”], Johnson went to New York City to hopefully conclude a deal with Columbia to distribute the records under license. While there, he was contacted by Archie Bleyer, head of Cadence Records, a man whom he greatly respected. Bleyer told Johnson that the public was clamoring for a record of the Davy Crockett TV theme. When informed that Johnson was to offer the recordings to Columbia, Bleyer requested that Cadence be allowed to immediately record its own version of the song and get it on the stands. Johnson readily agreed, reasoning that no other record could possibly compete with Fess Parker’s original vocal version of the song. Within two weeks, Bleyer had “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” recorded by Bill Hayes, and a record of it out on Cadence Records. This record had originally reproduced a photo of Fess Parker as “Davy” on the its cover, but Bleyer destroyed all copies of the cover when Disney objected. What a collector’s find that cover would be today!

Johnson completed his license of the original Davy Crockett masters to Columbia, but Fess Parker’s Columbia record version of “The Ballad...” did not appear on the record stands until three weeks after Hayes’ version on Cadence was climbing to the top of the popular music record charts. The Cadence version sold over 1-1/2 million copies in a very short time, while the Fess Parker rendition peaked at just short of a million records. The marketing of the music continued into the music publishing field, and the “Ballad” sold over 3/4 million copies of the sheet music published by the Wonderland Music Company.

The shows and theme for Disney's highly popular "Davy Crockett" television series spawned not only the sale of millions of records on non-Disney labels, but created a cultural and marketing phenomenon in the United States in the mid-1950's that has never since been matched. Anything related to “Davy Crockett” sold quickly, and the children of America briefly bedecked themselves in coonskin hats in the style of their TV hero.” (The above appeared in my 1997 book: The Golden Age of Walt Disney Records 1933-1988)

In the seven photos above, starting at the top and left to right are:
1. The original Columbia LP (CL-666) featuring the three TV episodes
2-4 Individual episodes Columbia released in 3 boxed 10” 78 rpm sets (pictured) with numbers C-516-C-518. (Davy Crockett: Indian Fighter; Goes to Congress; At the Alamo.) These 78’s were also released in three paper gatefold covers with same numbers and pictures, and in three individual 7” Eps with same pictures numbers B-2031 to B-2033.
5. This is the 78 rpm hit theme version by Bill Hayes on Cadence CCS#1 (it also appeared on a 45 rpm version Cadence 1256).
6.This is the 78 rpm theme as sung by Fess Parker on Columbia J-242 (also released on 45 rpm as 4-40449)
7.This is the Columbia 7” EP release of the subsequent added TV episodes featuring Davy Crockett and Mike Fink (The Great Keelboat Race) (Their Fight with the River Pirates) – Columbia B-2073, released in 1956


Mike

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 26, 2008 - 2:51 PM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Too many names, connections and bizniz talk! My head spins! smile

But thanks for the background info on this eternal song nonetheless.

 
 Posted:   Oct 26, 2008 - 4:14 PM   
 By:   George Komar   (Member)

Too many names, connections and bizniz talk! My head spins! smile

But thanks for the background info on this eternal song nonetheless.


Obviously, Thor, you're not a "history" buff. But most of this is documented in Recordman's book.
Thanks Mike.
Keep your postings coming. They're a highlight of this forum.

 
 Posted:   Oct 26, 2008 - 5:19 PM   
 By:   Gary S.   (Member)

Wasn't there a recording of Buddy Ebsen singing the song, he did in the tv series as I recall?

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 26, 2008 - 9:10 PM   
 By:   manderley   (Member)

This brings back a lot of memories, Recordman.

When I was 15, in 1955, I had been a member of a boy's chorus for a number of years, and during that summer we appeared on the ED SULLIVAN TV show, and sang "Davy Crockett", with actor/balladeer Burl Ives. (This was the second of my three appearances with the chorus on the show, so I became pretty familiar with Sullivan, and his "realllyy big shew, right here on our stage"!!!....)

People who have not lived through that "Davy Crockett" period can't really know how prevalent that song was on TV, the radio airwaves, and just the overhearing of people whistling and singing it around you. It was everywhere!!!

(Memories keep coming back..... We had appeared on Sullivan that year just before we went on a two-month concert tour of Europe, and now I remember that we recorded a 78 record of "Davy Crockett" in England for, I believe, EMI.)

 
 Posted:   Oct 27, 2008 - 5:31 AM   
 By:   Recordman   (Member)

Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen sang together on "Be sure you're right (Then go ahead)(Davy's motto) b/w "Old Betsy" on a Columbia single #45 4-40510. Ebsen later recorded several records for Reprise and MGM in the early 1960's. An internet source credits him as writing "I'm Davy Crockett's Friend", Co-composed with Paul Mason Howard, but I can't find that he actually recorded that one. Anyone know?
Mike

[startquote from Gary S.]Wasn't there a recording of Buddy Ebsen singing the song, he did in the tv series as I recall?

 
 Posted:   Oct 27, 2008 - 5:38 AM   
 By:   Recordman   (Member)

Manderly,
Burl Ives rel;eased his own recording of "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" on Decca 29423. I hope you were given credit wink
Mike

[startquote from Manderly]
When I was 15, in 1955, I had been a member of a boy's chorus for a number of years, and during that summer we appeared on the ED SULLIVAN TV show, and sang "Davy Crockett", with actor/balladeer Burl Ives. (endquote)

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 27, 2008 - 6:49 AM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

My brother David was born a little over 10 years after the production. Nevertheless, for the next 20 years we all had to endure Dad's singing, "Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier", as only dads sing. Like Ted Lewis. I still cringe. And my little brother would sock me if I dare did it to him. Even now, I'm sure.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 27, 2008 - 8:30 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

In his only known foray into film music criticism, the political (and baseball) commentator George Will once contrasted (c. 1980) the vapid mush of current film scores -- he cited STAR WARS -- with the Ballad of Davy Crockett. He described the latter as "REAL music."

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 27, 2008 - 9:04 AM   
 By:   PeterD   (Member)

Incidentally, a lot of the songs mentioned above are now collected on a CD:

http://www.fye.com/Western-Adventures-and-Others-Front-Page_stcVVproductId2548321VVcatId455366VVviewprod.htm

Growing up at the height of the Davy Crockett frenzy, I remember I played the record (I'm not sure which version) endlessly, no doubt driving my parents crazy. Of course, also had a coonskin cap, plastic flintlock rifle and plastic powder horn.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 27, 2008 - 9:20 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Obviously, Thor, you're not a "history" buff.

That's true, at least if you define "history" as the item's basic "who did what?" info. I'm more of an aesthetics guy. But all this is very useful as BACKGROUND info or as POINT-OF-DEPARTURE for further studies.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 27, 2008 - 10:33 AM   
 By:   shureman   (Member)

I'm certainly a product of this era but as much as I loved my old 78 rpm of the Ballad, what really excited me was the background score to these telefilms--especially AT THE ALAMO. In fact when Disney Treasures released the complete TV series, that was my decision to buy a DVD player !! Can anyone vouch how much, if any, background score is on any of the mentioned vinyls?

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 27, 2008 - 11:09 AM   
 By:   PeterD   (Member)

I'm certainly a product of this era but as much as I loved my old 78 rpm of the Ballad, what really excited me was the background score to these telefilms--especially AT THE ALAMO. In fact when Disney Treasures released the complete TV series, that was my decision to buy a DVD player !! Can anyone vouch how much, if any, background score is on any of the mentioned vinyls?

I don't have a definitive answer to your question, but judging from the sound clips (and the text down below the sound clips) on the link I provided above, I'd say you're probably only going to get a bit of the background score beneath the dialogue. But the CD's pretty cheap (there are also used copies even cheaper on amazon), so maybe it's worth buying to find out.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 27, 2008 - 3:51 PM   
 By:   nathan brittles   (Member)

This brings back a lot of memories, Recordman.

When I was 15, in 1955, I had been a member of a boy's chorus for a number of years, and during that summer we appeared on the ED SULLIVAN TV show, and sang "Davy Crockett", with actor/balladeer Burl Ives. (This was the second of my three appearances with the chorus on the show, so I became pretty familiar with Sullivan, and his "realllyy big shew, right here on our stage"!!!....)

People who have not lived through that "Davy Crockett" period can't really know how prevalent that song was on TV, the radio airwaves, and just the overhearing of people whistling and singing it around you. It was everywhere!!!

(Memories keep coming back..... We had appeared on Sullivan that year just before we went on a two-month concert tour of Europe, and now I remember that we recorded a 78 record of "Davy Crockett" in England for, I believe, EMI.)


Recordman, Manderley, Gentlemen, Ladies..

Wonderful memories from this posting.
My first two, appreciated, 78'S, were The Ballad of Davy Crockett and Calamity Jane.
I still have the music, still playable, after all these years.

(It was killer music for all the rabbits during the fifties though...what with disease and 'coonskin' caps!!).
Thankyou
Nathan

 
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