‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Buddy Ebsen Once Played Sidekick To Davy Crockett

by Joe Rutland

Before he was a household name on the classic TV show The Beverly Hillbillies, Buddy Ebsen actually was a TV star in another show. Back in the 1950s, Ebsen would play Georgie Russel as a sidekick to Davy Crockett. Fess Parker would play Crockett in a series of shows produced by Walt Disney.

Crockett Craze Catches Up With Star Of ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’

Ebsen and Parker would be seen in their roles on the ABC show Disneyland, according to an article from MousePlanet. This tandem would end up becoming very popular with kids. There was a Davy Crockett craze that made stars out of Parker and Ebsen. Much like TV fads of the day, the Davy craze did simmer down. The show would come to an end. Disney struck paydirt with the theme song Ballad of Davy Crockett.

While memories might place The Beverly Hillbillies star in a lot of these episodes, actually there were just five. All of these were shown in black-and-white upon their first airing. One episode airs in 1954 titled Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter. Four take to TV in 1955: Davy Crockett Goes to CongressDavy Crockett at the AlamoDavy Crockett’s Keelboat Race, and Davy Crockett and the River Pirates.

To take advantage of the craze, Disney would take the first three episodes and make a feature film titled Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier in 1955. They put together those final two episodes for 1956’s Davy Crockett and the River Pirates. The big drawing card was that fans could now see these in color. That’s something TV could not offer at that time.

Ebsen Actually Was A Contender To Play Lead Character

As the story goes, Ebsen was in the running to play Crockett. But Walt Disney did not see him in that role and created the Georgie character just for him. Just a few years later in 1962, Ebsen would start to play Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies. The rest is classic TV and American entertainment history. We’re not quite through with Parker, either. He would go on and play Daniel Boone on TV. Parker even wanted to open a theme park based on that show.

Two chance encounters with entertainment legends happened to save Ebsen’s career. Yes, one of them was Disney. Ebsen believed Walt remembered him from wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt in the 1930s. The other was Bill Morris, founder of the famed William Morris Agency. Ebsen was able to get a lengthy contract from Disney and it put his career back on track. Eventually, Paul Henning, creator of The Beverly Hillbillies, would meet up with Ebsen. Another solid career move and it leads to Ebsen becoming Uncle Jed.