The Ballad of Davy Crockett
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|"The Ballad of Davy Crockett"|
|Single by Bill Hayes|
|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. This version was sung by The Wellingtons. Parker played the role of Davy Crockett in the miniseries and continued in four other episodes made by Walt Disney Studios. 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. Other versions by Fess Parker and Tennessee Ernie Ford (recorded on February 7, 1955) quickly followed. All three versions made the Billboard magazine charts in 1955: Hayes' version made number 1 on the weekly chart (from March 26 through April 23) and number 7 for the year, Parker's reached number 6 on the weekly charts and number 31 for the year, while Ford's peaked at number 4 on the weekly country chart and number 5 on the weekly pop chart and charted at number 37 for the year. A fourth version, by bluegrass singer Mac Wiseman, reached number 10 on the radio charts in May 1955. The song also reached number 1 on the Cash Box chart, 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. Louis Armstrong also recorded the song in 1968.
In the United Kingdom, Hayes' version reached number 2 in the New Musical Express chart; Ford's version achieved number 3, and a version by UK singer Max Bygraves reached number 20. Several other British artistes recorded versions in 1955 and 1956, including Billy Cotton, Gary Miller, Ronnie Ronalde, and Dick James.
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. A French version by Annie Cordy was number 1 for five 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 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.
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.
- A 1955 single release on Dot Records by International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame inductee Mac Wiseman reached the number 10 position on the Country charts.
- Also in 1955, Burl Ives released the song as a single on Decca.
- Annie Cordy's version, "La Ballade de Davy Crockett", was number 1 in the charts for five weeks in France in August 1956.
- Pinky and Perky included their version of the song on their 1962 EP Pinky and Perky Out West.
- A rendition was recorded and released on The Kentucky Headhunters' 1991 album Electric Barnyard, and was released as a single. It peaked at number 49 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.
- Tim Curry recorded a cover version for the Disney's Music From The Park album in 1996.
- Mannheim Steamroller's new-age instrumental rendition appeared on their 1999 album Mannheim Steamroller Meets the Mouse.
- They Might Be Giants covered the song, with modified lyrics, as "The Ballad of Davy Crockett (in Outer Space)" on their 2009 album Here Comes Science.
- "Bill Hayes: A Conversation". Themacgyverproject.blogspot.com.
- "FSM Board: DAVY CROCKETT(TV 1954)George Bruns- Recordman #110". Filmscoremonthly.com. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
- Billboard, May 28, 1955, Most Played By Jockeys, p. 58
- "Reporter-News Online: Texas News -- The life, legend of Davy Crockett". Web.archive.org. 29 September 2007. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
- Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 13 August 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Opie, Peter, Opie, Iona, The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, 2001, NYRB Classics, ISBN 978-0940322691
- Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 223. ISBN 0-89820-177-2.