August 16, 1924 – March 18, 2010
“There have been several turning points in my life, but the most important one came the day I stepped before the cameras as Davy Crockett. The way I look at things, a man’s life story isn’t his alone, but it belongs to a lot of people who have influenced him and done things for him that he can never repay.” – Fess Parker
Today, Fess Parker would have turned 87 yrs old. He was a personal hero of mine so I wanted to pay tribute to this wonderful man and celebrate his life.
I was so fortunate, as a child, to have great shows with great heroes. Heroes that were not only bigger than life but great role models.
Two such role models were Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, both portrayed by Fess Parker in the 50′s and 60′s.
Fess Elisha Parker, Jr was in born in Fort Worth, TX on August 16, 1924. He grew up on a farm in San Angelo, TX and graduated from the University of Texas in 1950. Upon moving to Los Angeles, he studied drama at the University of Southern California and shortly afterward made his film debut in “Untamed Frontier” starring Shelley Winters.
He made a few movies before signing with Disney in 1955 to star in “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier”. The show became such a huge success that a merchandising frenzy followed with everything from coon-skin caps to mugs and shirts. Imagine Elvis and the Beetles – that was the frenzy over Fess Parker and Davy Crockett in 1955! The show consisted of three episodes depicting Crockett as a frontiersman, a congressman and the tragic hero at the Alamo. Davy Crockett is considered the first television miniseries, although the term had not yet been coined at that time. An interesting note on the 3 episodes; the full version of the Ballad of Davy Crockett was broken up into segments throughout the entire 3 parts. You can hear the entire version at the end of this blog.
“Parker became a contract star for Disney and appeared in The Great Locomotive Chase, Westward Ho, the Wagons!, Old Yeller, and The Light in the Forest. He complained they were all basically the same role. Disney refused to loan Parker for roles outside of that persona, such as The Searchers and Bus Stop.” - wikipedia
According to a videotaped interview (for the Archive of American Television) with Fess Parker, Parker stated that this was by far his single worst career reversal. (regarding The Searchers)
The show only ran for one year (1955 – 1956) and Parker was immediately type-cast as Crockett, appearing in various movies regarding the earlier years of Davy Crockett. The added movies of Crockett in earlier years came about (my opinion) because children and parents alike were so upset with Disney’s release of the Alamo where Crockett tragically died. In 1959 his career had leveled off until 1964 and the birth of the Daniel Boone series.
“Daniel Boone” ran from 1964 – 1970 and was one of the highest rated shows of its time. Parker not only starred in the leading role, he also co-produced the show and directed 5 of the most successful episodes.
At a whopping 6’6″ tall, Fess Parker’s height and good looks were ideal for portraying heroes like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. Being a fellow Texan certainly added to my great love for this man.
I believe Fess Parker’s Davy Crockett as well as Daniel Boone withstood the sands of time because of his portrayal of these two men. He radiated great warmth, caring and a soft humor that just made viewers love him!
I absolutely loved & worshiped him as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. Fess Parker was a natural hero as he lived by his own great values. He was a good man, possessed a kind heart and treated people with dignity and respect. I don’t see a lot of people like that anymore.
There have been other actors that have portrayed Davy Crockett, and as much as I might admire their acting abilities – to me, there was and is Only One Davy Crockett and I will miss him forever!
I found some wonderful videos that bring back all those great memories. I hope everyone will enjoy these great videos as much as I have. I want to thank those who contributed the use of their videos as a Tribute and Well Overdue Celebration to Fess Parker.
Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier..
- Sung By Fess Parker (Courtesy of: joelynny)
Daniel Boone was a man, yes a Big Man…..
- Sung By Fess Parker (Courtesy of: DukeFanGermany)
If I were to go back in time, I would be in front of my TV….
Farewell Fess Elisha Parker Jr…..You Served Your Fans Well..…
The complete Ballad of Davy Crockett (Courtesy of: DukeFanGerman)
“Remember that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take everything you have” – Davy Crockett
“After his acting career, Parker devoted much of his time operating his Fess Parker Family Winery and Vineyards in Los Olivos, CA. The winery is owned and operated by Parker’s family, and has produced several different types of award-winning wines. Parker’s son, Eli, is President and Director of Winemarketing & Vineyard Operations while daughter, Ashley, is Vice President of Marketing & Sales.“
The Parker operation includes over 1,500 acres (610 ha) of vineyards, and a tasting room and visitor center along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. In addition to wine, the winery is known for selling coon skin caps and bottle toppers, inspired by Parker’s Crockett and Boone characters, and for appearing in the movie Sideways.
In a reminiscence of his acting days, Parkers’ wine labels have a logo of a golden coonskin cap” - wikipedia