Johnny Crawford may have been the best child actor of his generation, at least on television. Born into a theatrical family, he began his TV career as one of the original Walt Disney Mousketeers, but he quickly moved on to much more prominent and demanding work as the co-star of the Western series The Rifleman. The series, telling of the adventures of a widowed sodbuster and his son on the frontier, was an immediate hit and ran for five years. During this period, Crawford proved himself to be a superb actor in his own right, and he was given many scenes that he was required to carry himself.
Crawford was signed to Del-Fi Records in 1961 -- as was the custom in those days, the stars of successful series were often given at least one shot at a recording career. His first record, "Daydreams," reached number 70, but his second release, "Your Love Is Growing Cold," failed to chart at all, while his third single, "Patti Ann," got to number 43. These records were fairly conventional teen pop, well-produced but otherwise unexceptional. And then, for his fourth single, Crawford recorded "Cindy's Birthday," which cracked the Top 20 in 1962, as did its follow-up, "Your Nose Is Gonna Grow." His recording career peaked later that year with a pair of Nashville-cut gems, "Rumours" (backed by "Nobody Loves a Clown," an early song by future Bread founder David Gates) and "Proud," which reached number 12 and number 28, respectively. By 1963, Crawford's series was off the air, and the fashion for teen singing idols was beginning to fade; still, Crawford managed one more chart placement with "Cindy's Gonna Cry." He cut a few more records, but following his graduation from high school in 1964, Crawford gave up his recording career, preferring to pursue his real first love, bronco riding, joining a rodeo later that year. His subsequent acting appearances were rare, although he did return to work during the mid-';60s with Chuck Connors in a superb episode of Connors' next series, Branded. ~ Bruce Eder