#898: Patti Ann by Johnny Crawford
John Ernest Crawford was born in 1946 in Los Angeles. He got into acting as a child star and by the age of nine was one of the Mouseketeers in the first season caste of the The Mickey Mouse Club in 1955. Crawford was asked in 1982 about how he got picked for the show. He recalled, “I went on the audition and I did a tapdance routine with my brother, and we also did a fencing routine. Then they asked if we had anything else we could do. My grandmother told me to tell them that I imitated ’50s singer Johnny Ray. I stepped forward and did my imitation of him singing “Cry” and that was what got me into the Mouseketeers.” Though he was cut from the show in 1956 after Disney cut the caste from 24 to 12, Crawford continued to get acting roles. Between 1956 and 1958 he appeared in episodes of The Lone Ranger, The Loretta Young Show, Sheriff of Cochise, Wagon Train, Crossroads, Whirlybirds, Mr. Adams and Eve and Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater. The latter featured an episode that became a syndicated TV show called The Rifleman. Johnny Crawford played Mark McCain, son of Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors). In 1959 Crawford was nominated for an Emmy Award for his role in The Rifleman. The show ran from 1958 to 1963.
While he was starring on The Rifleman, he also appeared in an episode in 1961 of The Donna Reed Show alongside child stars Paul Petersen and Shelley Fabares. Paul Petersen had also been a Mouseketeer with Johnny Crawford. That same year Johnny Crawford released his first single, hoping to become a teen pop star. The song was titled “Daydreams”.
In Vancouver Johnny Crawford consistently outperformed on the local charts compared t0 the Billboard chart. His next release, “You Love Is Growing Cold”, climbed to #16 in Vancouver, while the song didn’t crack the Hot 100. Others that did better in Vancouver included “Patti Ann” (#5 Vancouver/#43 Billboard).
“Patti Ann” was co-written by Fred Sledge Smith and Cliff Goldsmith. Smith was born in 1933 in Los Angeles. Goldsmith and Smith co-wrote (or arranged) “Peanut Butter” for the Marathons, “Western Movies” and “Hully Gully” for The Olympics, and “The Duck” for Jackie Lee in 1965. In 1964 they co-produced the “Harlem Shuffle” for Bob & Earl. In 1967 Fred Sledge Smith produced “Little Ole Man (Uptight, Everything’s Alright)” for Bill Cosby. The backing band for the song were later renamed the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band who had a #3 hit in 1970 titled “Express Yourself”.
“Patti Ann” is a song about the professed love of a guy who wants to marry Patti Ann. He let’s her know she is his “destiny” and that he’ll love her “eternally.” He vows to “dedicate my life” to her if she’ll only be his wife. Though lyrically thin, it’s likely that many teenage girls rushed out to buy the 45 rpm record, and dreamed that teen idol, Johnny Crawford, might want to marry them. “Patti Ann” climbed to #1 in San Bernardino, California, and Dallas, #2 in Syracuse, New York #5 in Akron, Ohio, and Buffalo, Ne w York, #8 in Great Falls, Montana, Fargo, North Dakota, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, and #9 in Chicago, Phoenix, and Springfield, Massachusetts.
Johnny Crawford kept having more chart successes between 1962 and 1964 with “Cindy’s Birthday” in 1962 (#3 Vancouver/#8 Billboard), “What Happened To Janie” (#7 Vancouver/did not chart ~ Billboard) and “Cindy’s Gonna Cry” (#3 in Vancouver/#72 Billboard) in 1963. In 1964 with “Judy Loves Me” (#12 Vancouver/#95 Billboard) and “Sandy” (#15 Vancouver/#108 Billboard). Between 1961 and 1964 Johnny Crawford charted nine songs into the Top 20 in Vancouver and just 3 songs into the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In subsequent years Johnny Crawford appeared as a guest star in Mr. Ed, The Big Valley, Little House On The Prairie, Hawaii Five-O and Murder, She Wrote. Starting in 1992 he formed the Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra, playing vintage tunes from the 1920’s and 1930’s. For fifteen consecutive years his band played at the Beverly Hills Hilton for the Director’s Guild Awards. In 2011 his band released an album titled Sweepin’ The Clouds Away. In 2019 it was disclosed that at the age of 72 Johnny Crawford was suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Update: Johnny Crawford died at the age of 75, on April 29, 2021.
July 20, 2019
David Weigand, “Johnny Crawford: Western Star to Vintage Singer,” SF Gate, June 7, 2009.
“A Johnny Crawford Interview,” TV Collector, December 14, 1982.
“Johnny Crawford,” Mickey Mouse Club Cast.
“Johnny Crawford has Alzheimer’s. Played Chuck Connors’ son Mark McCain on The Rifleman,” Life & Times of Hollywood.com, March 2, 2019.
Mike Barnes, “Johnny Crawford, Young Star of ‘The Rifleman’ Dies at 75,” Hollywood Reporter, April 29, 2021.
“C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, January 12, 1962.
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