KING OF THE WILD FAD YEAR

Reminisce - - Spotlight - RAN­DAL C. HILL writes about mu­sic from his home in Ban­don, OR.

Thanks to Fess Parker, a ruggedly hand­some 30-year-old Texan who stood 6 feet, 5 inches tall and ex­uded quiet con­fi­dence, baby­boom kids in early 1955 were be­gin­ning a brief but in­tense love af­fair with a long-de­parted hero. Parker’s star­dom sky­rock­eted overnight as Davy Crock­ett dur­ing ABC-TV’s

Dis­ney­land tril­ogy about “the king of the wild fron­tier.”

It was Walt Dis­ney’s de­but foray into tele­vi­sion, and hour­long Davy Crock­ett episodes ap­peared one month apart from De­cem­ber 1954 un­til Fe­bru­ary 1955. You could say it was tele­vi­sion’s first minis­eries. The shows at­tracted 40 mil­lion mes­mer­ized view­ers, an un­ex­pected rat­ings home run.

To serve a feed­ing frenzy of epic pro­por­tions, man­u­fac­tur­ers rushed out Crock­ett gear, and kids ev­ery­where hur­ried to grab more than 3,000 items that beck­oned ir­re­sistibly.

Es­sen­tial to any self-re­spect­ing Crock­ett fan was the cov­eted coon­skin cap, a faux fur cre­ation with a lux­u­ri­ant real rac­coon snap-on tail dan­gling from the back. Girls, too, could show their Davy de­vo­tion by sport­ing the Polly Crock­ett hat in white or pas­tel “fur.”

Af­ter seven manic months and sales of $300 mil­lion— $2.7 bil­lion in to­day’s dol­lars— the Crock­ett fix­a­tion died sud­denly.

But the event can­not be dis­missed as a friv­o­lous fad; for the first time, mar­keters saw the com­mer­cial po­ten­tial of pitch­ing di­rectly to kids, and there were a lot of boomers. The Crock­ett craze stands as a prime ex­am­ple of the emerg­ing power of the tele­vi­sion-prod­uct tie-in.

Three ver­sions of the sin­gle “The Bal­lad of Davy Crock­ett” rank in the top 25 on the Bill­board Top 100 songs of 1955.

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