Petticoat Junction on DVD Saturday Morning Cartoons 1970s V1 on DVD Here's Lucy on DVD TV Commercials on DVD Peabody & Sherman cartoons on DVD Bob Hope Christmas Specials on DVD

Johnny Crawford of The Rifleman
by Jim Longworth

In 1970, USC film student John Longenecker produced "The Resurrection of Broncho Billy". It was co-written by a pre "Halloween" John Carpenter, and went on to win an Oscar for best short subject. The story is about a boy who grew up in a big city and dreamed of becoming a cowboy. Not surprisingly, Longenecker asked his old friend Johnny Crawford to star in the movie because Crawford had grown up in Los Angeles, and became one of the most popular TV cowboys of all time.

I asked Johnny if the film was autobiographical for him.

JC Yeah. I was just like you and other kids at the time. I watched B westerns on Saturday mornings. I had all of the toy guns, and the Hopalong Cassidy stuff, and cap pistols. We all played cowboys and Indians, and my bicycle was my horse.

But not all horses had two wheels.

JC There was this amusement park right off Beverly Blvd., and they had a pony ride, and my parents would try and avoid driving by that park because I wasn't happy until I had gotten to sit on a pony. My favorite was named Goldie, and they strapped me into the saddle, and he trotted around with me.

When he wasn't riding ponies, Johnny was singing around the house and seemed to love performing. By age five, he was acting in his first play, a production of "Mr. Belvedere". His talent was evident, and a product of good genes.

JC My father was a film editor at Columbia, and both he and my mother performed in local theatre. We would go see those plays and I thought it was just great that they were doing that.

As fate would have it, Crawford's Sunday school teacher was also an agent, so she sent the young thespian on a series of auditions, including one for Walt Disney who was casting Mouseketeers for his new "Mickey Mouse Club" TV show. Crawford's imitation of singer Johnnie Ray landed him a slot in the original ensemble which also featured Annette Funicello. But the euphoria of being on national television was short lived.

JC There were so many of us that they decided to focus on a smaller group, going from twenty four Mouseketeers down to twelve, and I was let go after the first season. It was very disappointing. But having done "Mickey Mouse Club" gave me confidence.

The show also opened doors for Johnny, including a stand-out role in Lux Video Theatre's "Little Boy Lost", and that led to roles in other live TV dramas. Then came his shortest and most successful audition ever, for a show that would make him a household name.
It was December of 1957, and Four Star founder Dick Powell and the Levy Gardner Laven company had cast Chuck Connors to star in an episode of Dick's popular "Zane Gray Theatre", which would also serve as the pilot for a new series titled "The Rifleman". The story was about rancher Lucas McCain and his son Mark, trying to make a life for themselves in the old West. In 1990, Connors told TV Guide, "The producers and I interviewed 20 or 30 kids to play Mark. Then Johnny came in the room, and before we even talked to him, I said, 'That's him. That's the Rifleman's son! ' "

As the title of the series suggests, the elder McCain was proficient with a rifle, and in the course of five seasons, he gunned down hundreds of bad guys. Despite the violence, though, the show remained popular with both male and female audiences. I asked Johnny why.

JC The father/son relationship WAS the show really. It gave the show a dimension that other shows didn't have, which was a family of two people trying to make it in the old West when it was pretty lawless. But it was always understood that killing was a last resort, and the violence wasn't to be used frivolously.

Johnny Crawford RecordAs the show grew in popularity, so did Johnny. In those days it was typical for teen TV idols to launch a singing career. "Donna Reed" stars Shelley Fabares and Paul Peterson did it. So had Ricky Nelson.

JC A friend of ours was at a cocktail party talking to Bob Keane who was president of DelFi records and had discovered Richie Valens. Bob said he was looking for a young actor who could sing, and our friend told him about me. We had a meeting and I signed a contract. My first song was "Daydreams".

Soon Crawford found himself having to multi task. He was acting, recording (he had 5 hit records), singing on American Bandstand, and making personal appearances, including one for the grand opening of the nation's first IHOP. I wondered if he ever felt stressed, and that his time and talents were being stretched too thin.

JC Well I also had homework to do, but I loved to watch all of the TV Westerns. So when I was supposed to be learning my lines and doing my homework, I would position myself on the floor, in front of the TV, and have all those things spread out in front of me. I would manage to do my homework during commercials.

Johnny kept up his frantic pace for five years while filming "The Rifleman", and it almost extended to another season.

JC I remember they were talking about doing a 6th season in color and expanding it to an hour. That would have been good for me financially, but I'm glad we didn't do it because there's something magical about a two reeler. Less is more. It's just sweeter than something that drags on. It's more gripping.

Johnny Crawford RecordFollowing "The Rifleman", Crawford pulled a stint in the Army, and continued to act in films, like John Wayne's "El Dorado", in which he had his clothes on, and in "The Naked Ape", in which he had his clothes off.

JC I still get flack from that. There's a little nudity in the film and it's brief, but the whole thing is sweet and romantic. It didn't bother me at all. It's one shot, and it's very tasteful.

But since Hugh Hefner produced the film, a photo of Crawford shows up in "Playboy", giving Johnny the distinction of having been the first male to appear with full frontal nudity in the iconic magazine.

In 1992 Crawford got back to his musical roots and formed his own orchestra, which plays songs from the 1920's and '30's. The band has performed at awards shows and is available for private functions.

Johnny is also still making personal appearances, including next month's Western Film Fair, July 9-12 in Winston-Salem.

JC I enjoy people and that's why the Western Film Fair will be so much fun because I can sit in a chair all day and meet people who are so friendly, and warm and excited to meet me, and it's thrilling.

For more information on the event, visit

Video Vault / Holiday Specials / Fabulous Fifties / Unseen Scenes / Game Shows / Lost Kid Shows / Movie Stars on TV / Saturday Morning Shows / Requested Forgotten TV Shows / The Super Sixties / More Modern TV Shows / The New * * Shows / 1980's Wrestling / TV Blog

Television's Embarrassing Moments / Action Shows of the Sixties / TVparty Mysteries and Scandals / Variety Shows of the Seventies / The Eighties / TVafterparty / The Laugh Track / 1970's Hit Shows / Response to TVparty / Search the Site / Add Your Comments
1950's TV Shows / Fess Parker & Davy Crockett / 1952 Olympics Telethon / Amos 'n' Andy / Little Rascals & Our Gang / Howdy Doody / The Lone Ranger / Kuda Bux / Early Network News Broadcasts / KTLA News / TV's First Working Woman / Abbott & Costello TV Show / The Three Stooges: The Where They Were / The First 'Black' Show - Beulah / Women on TV in the 1950s / The Today Show / Obscure Actress Mary Castle / Serious 1950s TV shows / Remembering David Susskind / TV's First Rerun Series / The Ken Murray Budweiser Show / Two Variety Shows of the Fifties / Game Shows of the Fifties /1950's TV Wrestling / Mr. Adams and Eve / TV's First Star / Oh Susanna! the Gale Storm Show / Bob Hastings / TV's First Star / History of the Laugh Track / The First Interactive Video Game / Designing Winky-Dink / Buffalo Bob Smith / The McKimson Brothers & Animation / Interview with a Show Business Legend / The Soundies / Snaders Telescriptions / Steve Allen Interviewed / Racket Squad / December Bride / The Big Show / Beverly Garland & Decoy / Roger Muir / Noel Coward's 1955 TV Special / Jon Provost Interview / 1950's TV Shows on DVD / Oh Susanna! The Gale Storm Show / 1950's Old Time TV Thanksgiving / Outrageous 1950's Commercial! / The Real Superman? / Mickey Mouse Club's Cheryl / Gale Storm / NYC's St. Patrick's Day Parade Telecasts / Julie London / The Goldbergs / 1950's Female Singers / The Dead End Kids / Bowery Boys / Fred Allen / Ed Wynn / Mr. Belvedere Movies / Art Linkletter / The Bickersons / Marty & Live TV / George Gobel & Red Buttons / Barbara Billingsley / Billy Gray Interview / Abbott & Costello Show / The Honeymooners / Three Stooges' Joe Besser / Whirlybirds / Burns & Allen Show
Classic TV Commercials / 1950's TV / 1960's TV / 1970's TV / TV Games / Honey Boo Boo / Lucy Shows / 2012 Emmy Awards / John Wayne / Gene Roddenberry / Big Blue Marble / Monty Hall / Carrascolendas / Mr. Dressup / Major Mudd / Chief Halftown / Baby Daphne / Sheriff John / Winchell & Mahoney / Fireball X-L5 / Mr. Wizard / Captain Noah / Thanksgiving Day Specials / Disney's First Christmas Special / Saturday Morning Cartoons / The Magic Garden / Amahl & the Night Visitors / Holiday Toy Commercials / Lucy & Desi's Last Christmas Show / Joey Heatherton / Fat Albert / The Virginian / Bewitched / Death of John Wayne / 1974 Saturday Mornings / Chuck McCann / Rudolph Collectables / Shrimpenstein / Local Popeye Shows / New Treasure Hunt / Star Wars / KISS / Lancelot Link / Saturday Morning Cartoons / Wonder Woman / Classic Comic Books / Andy Griffith / Cher / TV Shows on DVD / Outtakes & Bloopers / 1967 TV Shows / Romper Room / Captain Kangaroo / Chicago Local Kiddie Shows / Boston Local TV / Philly Local TV / NYC Local Kid Shows / Electric Company / Bette Davis / Judy Garland / Christmas Specials / Redd Foxx / Good Times / Sitcom Houses / What's Happening! / Winky Dink & You / Sonny & Cher / Smothers Brothers / Soupy Sales / The Carpenters / Route 66 / Bozo / The Carpenters Christmas Specials / Local Kid Shows / Death of TV's Superman / Wonderama / Sesame Street / Bob Hope Specials / Little Rascals / Gay Icon T-Shirts / Alex Toth Book / TV Terrorists / Irwin Allen / The Untouchables / Carol Burnett Show / Batman TV Show / Green Hornet / Today Show History / Our Gang / Doris Day Show / 1970's Commercials For Women / Bill Cosby in the 1970s / The Golddiggers / Lola Falana / 1970s TV Shows / David Bowie on TV / Hudson Brothers / Jackie Gleason / Hollywood Squares / Match Game / Bob Keeshan / Gumby / The Flip Wilson Show / Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour / The Bobby Darin Show / The Richard Pryor Show / George Burns / Lucy's Lost Christmas Special / Classic Christmas Toy Commercials / Cricket On The Hearth / 1950's Holiday Shows / Amahl and the Night Visitors / A Christmas Carol on TV / The Yule Log / Celebrity Commercials / Rudolph / Movie Posters & More!

TVparty is Classic TV on the internet!


Latest TV on
DVD Reviews

Classic TV Blog

A Better Classic
TV Network

TV Shows on DVD

Kid Shows on DVD

Punk Book

Specials on DVD

TV Shows

Movies on DVD Reviews

Music of Dark Shadows


Amazon Prime - unlimited streaming
of your fave TV shows and movies!
Get your FREE 30 Day Trial!

PR4 & PR5 Pages for Advertising



TVparty is Classic TV on the internet!
Looking for classic TV DVDs?/See below:
TV Commercials on DVD Wrestling DVDs Classic TV Books
TVparty is Classic TV on the internet!
Contact Us
Other Cool TV Sites

TV Blog