KING OF THE WILD FAD YEAR
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.