Michael A. Lofaro
All please rise and sing the Daniel Boone theme song. That's right. It's certainly not too much to ask of those of the TV generation. Yet, if we try to sing any part of that short ballad without the words in front of us, we would likely either flounder or break into "Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, / Greenest state in the Land of the Free." We might even get as far as "kilt him a b'ar when he was only three" before we realized that we were singing about Davy Crockett rather than Daniel Boone.
Such is the power of television that we now often confuse and merge the images of the two most preeminent frontiersmen in the history of our country. Much of the problem can, of course, be laid at the cabin door of Fess Parker, who starred convincingly as Davy Crockett in the five Walt Disney episodes of "Disneyland" (1954-56) that were reshaped into two movies and as Daniel Boone in 165 episodes of the prime-time television series (1966-70) that bore the name of that pioneer.
Yet the heart of the problem behind the confusion of Boone and Crockett lies deeper than the staying power of their respective television theme songs. If the vitality of these men's lives can be brought to life for most people only through an audiovisual medium, then popular history, what we remember of history after our formal education is over, will be confined to those events, matters, and issues that convert easily into a vivid dramatization, one that can capture an audience's interest and can fit within a certain time slot that is predicated upon commercial constraints. For them, the actual lives of Boone and Crockett become a muddy mixture of history, legend, and media hype.
The problem was perhaps less acute for our parents and grand‐