Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fess Parker Dies: Icon of the 50s and 60s

FESS PARKER (August 16, 1924 – March 18, 2010), 6’6” GENTLE GIANT OF BABY BOOMER TELEVISION, was not only a hero of mine but to millions of boys of the 1950’s and 60’s. Beginning with playing Davey Crockett in the Disney film by the same name, it was that movie that popularized the coonskin cap, selling millions of the furry toppers to boys all over America. Caps, lunch boxes, trading cards, you name it— Crockett fever had swept America. More than that, Fess Parker’s father-figure, rifle-toting persona made most of our real dads look pretty ordinary. And while I may have resisted memorizing and remembering facts and dates in school, the theme song to Davey Crockett (sung by Parker himself) was absolutely burned into my mind:

Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee
Greenest state in the land of the free
Raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree
Kilt him a b’ar when he was only 3
Daa-vy, Davy Crockett
King of the wild frontier

While the movie Davey Crockett may have made Fess Parker a household name, it was his portrayal of another frontiersman, Daniel Boone, that locked Fess Parker in the minds of any kid growing up in the early to mid-1960s.

Parker lived his later years owning his own hotel and winery in California, was married and had two children, Fess Elisha Parker III and Ashley Parker-Ashley. He passed away on the birthday of his wife of 50 years. Rest in peace, old friend.


Jane Waggoner Deschner said...

I read recently these days described as "Eisenhower's America." The heroes were something then, righting wrongs, making the world a better place.

Dolls from the Attic said...

I grew up watching Davy Crockett ...This makes me very sad!
What a beautiful tribute!
Thank you for posting!
Marta from Dolls From the Attic

Peter Faur said...

The theme song was my first encounter with a scratched record. Even today, I always hear it in my head as: "Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, Greenest state in the land of the free ... the free ... the free ... the free" (Bump the record player) "Raised in the woods etc."

There was a movie, but he actually first got big on Disney's TV show in the '50s. My most vivid impressions of him are all in black and white.

Christine H. said...

Daniel Boone was one of the few TV shows that my parents let us watch. Mr. Rogers was also considered acceptable and so was Gentle Ben. Gilligan's Island was off limits as were all the cartoons.

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