#1307: Sandy by Johnny Crawford
Peak Month: March 1964
8 weeks on the C-FUN-TASTIC FIFTY
Peak Position: #15
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #108
YouTube.com link: “Sandy”
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 his 1961 hit “Daydreams” (#2 in Vancouver/#70 Billboard), and 1962 hits, “Patti Ann” (#5 Vancouver/#43 Billboard) and “Cindy’s Birthday” (#3 Vancouver/#8 Billboard). Crawford did better in Vancouver again in 1963 with “What Happened To Janie” (#7 Vancouver/did not chart ~ Billboard), and “Cindy’s Gonna Cry” (#3 Vancouver/#72 Billboard). In 1964 Crawford charted “Judy Loves Me” (#12 Vancouver/#95 Billboard) and “Sandy”.
“Sandy” was a cover of the 1959 song by Larry Hall which ranked #100 on the year-end Billboard chart for 1960. Hall was a one-hit wonder with “Sandy” peaking at #15 twice in non-consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1960, and #9 on CFUN in Vancouver. “Sandy”, we find out, is made from sugar, spice, ice cream and candy. She has heavenly eyes and luscious lips. With such a creation, it’s no wonder the guy singing the song is a “fool” for Sandy. Since the song was a hit in 1959-60 for Larry Hall, someone thought Johnny Crawford could have a hit record with a remake “Sandy”. The song peaked at #10 in Erie, Pennsylvania. It made #15 in Vancouver and Saskatoon (SK), and #17 in Toronto. But in the few radio markets elsewhere it failed to catch on.
When Johnny Crawford’s “Sandy” entered the CFUN chart, the #2 record for two weeks was “You Don’t Own Me” by Leslie Gore. Here was a song about a woman not wanting a man in her life to put her “on display” or tell her “what to do” or “what to say.” Perhaps the tastes of teenage girls were starting to change in 1964, as record sales of “You Don’t Own Me” suggested. Teenage girls were starting to find it less captivating to be thought of as someone composed of sweet confections, like “Sandy”.
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. Johnny Crawford died on April 29, 2021.
August 3, 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.
Carl Arrington, “Having Survived a Tumor and The Jazz Singer, Neil Diamond Eases His Life Back into Shape,” People, April 5, 1982.
“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, March 7, 1964.
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Johnny Crawford, Vancouver’s favorite teen idol? You keep surprising me up there. I don’t think his records were anything special, other than his “Rifleman” connection (funny, he never did Western songs). This version is just a little too slick for me, plus it came out a little late- make that far too late- for “teeners” thanks to the Fab Four. On the other hand, Larry Hall’s hit had a nice little country/rockabilly touch (he was from Cincinnati, not Hollywood). Oh, how Larry’s little label tried to make him into another Ricky Nelson! Even songs by guys like Burt Bacharach (!) and Aaron Schroeder (many Elvis hits, etc.) weren’t gold records, but lead ones. He passed away in Oregon years ago. Give Johnny credit for sustaining a musical career long after his Western days were over. Fun facts: “Sandy” was also covered by Brit teen idol Craig Douglas, who had several hits over there with American covers…
Larry did record another song that became a hit- in Australia. The upbeat “Ladder Of Love” did very well Down Under when sung by the smoothest teen idol I’ve ever heard (and one of the best-looking), long-time Aussie favorite Bryan Davies. He had his own TV variety show at 16!
Hi, Nice writeup about Johnny, who sadly passed away two days ago. I didn’t know about the Craig Douglas cover of “Sandy” but just pulled it up and enjoyed. Thanks for posting. There’s also a Bobby Curtola cover at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqv0bZQrvZ8. Appears that the song got more respect in its time than it does today. In addition, I believe there are at least four other DIFFERENT songs with the title “Sandy” — one by Dion, one by Mike Nesmith, one by Ronny & the Daytonas and of course, “Sandy” sung by John Travolta in the movie Grease. Finally, a few years ago on the internet I “ran into” the Sandy to whom Larry Hall was singing to — younger sister of someone he was dating. Real life Sandy was still living in California, where Larry moved from Cincinnati at some point. Sadly he also died a number of years ago.
Thanks Robert, for noting Johnny Crawford’s passing on April 29th. I’ll add his obituary to each of the songs I’ve reviewed by him on this website.