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The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams

Updated on September 2, 2011

A Lens dedicated to one of my favorite TV shows of all time! Grizzly Adams!!

When I was just a little girl, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams had a huge impact on me.

That's right, I said "little girl!" It might strike some as odd that a girl not a boy would be into Grizzly Adams, but I sure was! I think to this day, this show is one of the biggest reasons why I have such a great love for animals and connection to nature.

Were you a Grizzly Adams fan too? Strike a nostalgic chord from your childhood? Well, walk with me down memory lane and we'll revisit all things Grizzly Adams.

Let's get started with the intro...

The Cast...

Grizzly Adams (Dan Haggerty)

Mad Jack the Mountain Man (Denver Pyle)

Nakoma (Don Shanks)

Ben (Adam's right hand bear)

Number Seven (Mad Jack's Mule)

And many great guest stars.

A little bit about... Dan Haggerty

Dan Haggerty was born November 19, 1941 in Hollywood, California. He grew up in Southern California amid the beach and bodybuilding culture. His early roles included Muscle Beach Party (1964) and the Elvis Presley film Girl Happy (1965). As an actor, he is best known for his role as Grizzly Adams in both TV and film.

He worked as animal trainer, stunt expert and animal handler for the "Tarzan" TV series and feature film, directed white tigers, wolverines, eagles and wild boar in "When the North Wind Blows" and worked with bears, foxes and hawks in "My Side of the Mountain." His natural ability to handle all types of animals enabled him to do scenes that other actors would find impossible.

"Grizzly Adams" was Haggerty's first starring role in a film, the role that would make him a household name.

A little bit about... Denver Pyle

Denver Pyle was born May 11, 1920 in Bethune, Colorado to a farming family. He attended college for a time but left it behind for a life in show business. On the long road to success he did everything from working the oil fields in Oklahoma to the shrimp boats in Texas. In 1940 he moseyed on off to Los Angeles.

His early roles included regular appearances on now legendary television shows like "Gunsmoke" (1955) and "Bonanza" (1959). He developed a close association with actor John Wayne, appearing in many of Wayne's later films, including The Horse Soldiers (1959), The Alamo (1960), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973).

He settled easily into hillbilly/mountain men types in his later years and became a household face for his crotchety presence in "The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams" (1977) and, especially, "The Dukes of Hazzard" (1979). He had over 250 acting credits in a career that spanned over 50 years. He died in Burbank of lung cancer at age 77.

A little bit about... Don Shanks!

Don Shanks was born February 26, 1950 in Piasa, Illinois. Don is a Native American of Cherokee descent. As an actor, he is best known for his role as Nakoma, Grizzly Adams blood brother on The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams television series. He also played Michael Myers in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers.

Shanks' ability to do his own stunts in Grizzly Adams gave him a secondary career as a stuntman and stunt coordinator. Don Shanks' 35 + year career has garnered him over 80 acting, stunt and stunt coordinator credits.

He currently resides in Toluca Lake, California.

A little bit about Ben... the Grizzly Bear

Very little... Ben's full name was Benjamin Franklin. From what I understand, two of the performing bears that portrayed Ben were named 'Bozo' and 'Bart'.

Unfortunately, not a lot of biographical information is available about any of them. But, please enjoy the photo anyway! Grrrrrr!! I think this one here's Bart.

A little bit about... Number 7 - Mad Jack's cantankerous mule

Jack liked to argue with him and cuss at him a lot, that's for sure!

But he really loved ol' Number 7.

Vote for your favorite cast member!

Who is your favorite character?

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I remember when I met Grizzly Adams

Well, sort of...

I'll never forget the time my parents did some remodeling on our house and one of the carpenters happened to look just like Grizzly Adams.

I was so young, probably 4 or 5 and very impressionable. My Dad thought it would be a great idea if they introduced him to me as 'Grizzly Adams'.

The nice guy carpenter agreed to pretend to be Dan Haggerty and I was absolutely thrilled that I had met him. Or so I thought. A few years later when the truth came out it was like finding out about Santa, only more traumatic.

Grizzly Adams Look-a-likes... - No, the cabinet guy from my youth isn't in there.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Some Grrrrrrizly books from Amazon

Life and Times of Grizzly Adams
Life and Times of Grizzly Adams

This is the book that started it all. By Charles E. Sellier Jr.


Did you know this whole thing was based on a TRUE STORY? - Read on to learn about the Real Grizzly Adams...

John Capen 'Grizzly' Adams was born in Medway, Massachussets on or about October 12, 1812. Adams was trained and employed as a shoemaker until he was 21. There is much debate among biographers as to the path that led him into the wilderness and subsequent fame.

Some say the Gold Rush brought him to California where he was a trapper in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was there that he was given the nickname "Grizzly" for his reputation as a fierce hunter. He is said to have trapped many grizzly bears for zoos. He was a famed outdoorsman and a performer/partner in P. T. Barnum's shows.

He also hand-reared and trained grizzly cubs as pets. He named two of them Lady Washington and Benjamin Franklin. It is said that Ben saved Adams' life by taking on a wild female grizzly that had attacked his master.

Legend has it that General Fremont, his most delinquent grizzly, struck Adams in the head while wrestling, cracking it like an eggshell. The wound healed, only to be reopened again and again by the General. By the fourth time, his brain was left exposed.

The Adams legend was popularized by the television series starring Dan Haggerty in 1977, based on a motion picture that also starred Haggerty from 1974, which was in turn based on a book written in 1973. Prior to this, a biography had been written about Adams after his death in 1860 from meningitis.

Extremely relevant Poll Question... - For parents and perpetual kids...

Do you think kids today would benefit from watching this TV show?

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This show gave me a great love and appreciation of the outdoors, nature, wildlife, simple living and taught me so much about being kind to animals.

I wanted SO badly to live with animals in the wilderness just like Grizzly Adams did. My family went to Yellowstone National Park one summer vacation and I ran around telling everyone who'd listen that when I grew up I was going to move there to live in nature where the animals roam free.

Unfortunately, I never did. But, you never know, I still might someday...

Are you into Nature and Simple Living too? - Here's some great resources for you to check out from Amazon.

Cool YouTube Video Clips!

Here's some movies you might like from Amazon... - including the feature film, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams!

And thanks for reading this lens!

Have some memories you'd like to share about Grizzly Adams? - Let me know what you think!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I loved this show when I was young & I still love it today! I just purchased Seasons 1&2 on DVD & fell in love all over! I sure hope they put the pilot movie & The Capture of Grizzly Adams out on DVD too!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      My fondest memories of Grizzly Adams takes me back 30 years even before I was a teenager. The theme song "Maybe" simply made the world stop whenever I heard it, because I was so moved with the love I felt just hearing it. As a young boy, I used to be a little afraid of Grizzly Adams beard and it made him look a lot like Santa Claus. I recall his lovely cabin, Denver Pyle and his mule. What I liked the most was the mule and the big bear.

      I had uncertain mixed feelings about the recent dvd release, because the reviews were below average concerning the quality and content of this show. Maybe what matters more is the sweetest memories that some of us have of this important and lovable tv series. May I suggest that all of us who are animal and nature lovers, buy this dvd and share it with others, so that the people will remember to care for animals and nature more than one another, because seriously, these animals need more protection and love than us. Thank you so much Grizzly Adams and team.

    • Glorymiller profile image

      Glory Miller 6 years ago from USA

      I remember watching this show every week.

    • Wendy L Henderson profile image

      Wendy Henderson 8 years ago from PA

      Hey, I almost forgot about this show. It was a good one. Thanks for reminding me. :)