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Fess Parker - Entrepreneur

Updated on January 27, 2015

Fess Parker: Actor, Businessman, Wine Connoisseur

Added 3/19/10 Fess Parker, a baby-boomer idol in the 1950s who launched a craze for coonskin caps as television's Davy Crockett, died Thursday (3/18/2010) of natural causes. He was 85.

When I was a kid, my sister bought me the Davey Crockett album and I played it over and over. I also had a coon skin hat (imitation). It was the craze. Westerns were in. It was that period of time, especially with TV, that the following it the circuit: Gunsmoke, Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Have Gun Will Travel, Bonzana, Tells of Wells Fargo, Maverick, The Big Valley, Batt Masterson, MacKenzies Raiders, Rawhide, Wanted Dead Or Alive, Wagon Train, Wild Wild West, Virginian, Sky King, Sugerfoot, Rifleman, and many more.

Born Fess E. Parker in Fort Worth, Texas, August 16, 1924. He grew up in Angelo, Texas. Served in the U.S. Marine Corps, Fess joined to become a pilot. But like James Arness, he was too tall (six feet, five inches).

At the University of Texas he was initiated into the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity in 1948. Parker graduated from the University in 1950 with a history degree, and then moved to California, where he studied drama at the University of Southern California.

Fess Parker played in various TV episodes and movies throughout his career from 1954 thru 1970. He retired from the film industry in the mid-1970s.

Parker also operates two hotels, the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara (which he jointly developed with Hilton Hotels), and the Fess Parker's Wine Country Inn and Spa, located in Los Olivos. Parker is also in the midst of developing a five-star seaside resort in Santa Barbara called Fess Parker's Santa Barbara Beach Front Hotel.

Parker's operation includes over 1,500 acres (6.1 km2) of vineyards, and a tasting room and visitor center along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. In addition to wine, Parker is known for selling coon skin caps and bottle toppers at his winery (inspired by his Crockett and Boone characters).

From coon hats to grapes

"Even the cottage cheese people are after us to see if we can't give their product a Crockett tie-in," a Disney executive said in 1955. Mark Rich ranked Davy Crockett's coonskin cap No. 14 in his book "100 Greatest Baby Boomer Toys." Paul F. Anderson devoted an entire book to the topic, "The Davy Crockett Craze."

"I would suspect if you brought those numbers up to date that it might exceed more than $1 billion of merchandise," Parker estimates during a lengthy telephone interview from his California winery.

Fess Parker

The Crockett Craze

In 1955, there was already a "Crockett craze" in the U.S. Crockett merchandise was produced en masse, the most iconic item being the imitation coonskin cap. I, also, owned one of those hats.

Over ten million copies of the song, The Ballad of Davy Crockett, were sold.

Fess Parker Interview

Fess Parker

An Interview by Michael Barrier

On December 15, 1954, during its first season, the Disneyland TV show aired an episode called "Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter." It was the first of three episodes about the legendary frontiersman. Fess Parker, who was then 30 years old, had been chosen by Walt Disney himself to play Crockett. Disney had spotted Parker in a 2 1/2-minute bit part in a science-fiction thriller called Them!, about huge mutated ants that were threatening the American Southwest.

continue interview

Davy Crockett

Davy Crockett
Davy Crockett

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      I grew up watching Fess Parker, really liked his shows.