Child acting star Johnny Crawford died April 29, 2021 as a result of the Covid-19 virus and pneumonia at the age of 75. His website reports that his wife was by his side at the time of his death. Crawford’s website also had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and had been living in a memory care facility before getting sick.
While he is best known for the role of Mark McCain – the son of Lucas McCain – “The Rifleman” -, Crawford was a multi-talented individual who also had his own big band.
Crawford began his television career as one of the original members of “The Mickey Mouse Club”. From there he went on to appear in 168 episodes of “The Rifleman”.
He earned his first Emmy Award nomination when he was just 13 years old.
After an uncredited role in his debut television appearance in “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit”; Crawford appeared in dozens of productions including “The Lone Ranger”, “The Count of Monte Cristo”, “Have Gun Will Travel”, the “Zane Grey Theatre”, “Wagon Train”, “Tales of Wells Fargo”, “The Rifleman”, “Mr. Ed”, “Rawhide”, Luke MacDonald in “El Dorado”, “Hawaii Five-O”, “The Big Valley”, “Little House on the Prairie”, “Murder, She Wrote”, and his final appearance in “The Marshall”.
Crawford showed off his musical ability with performances on “The Rifleman”, “Hollywood a Go Go”, “The Thirteenth Floor”, “Welcome to Collinwood”, and “Hellboy”.
Growing up in a musical family, it is no surprise that Crawford turned to making music on his own. In 1962 his song “Cindy’s Birthday” charted in the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart; the first of eight Hot 100 hits in his career.
Later he became the lead singer for Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks. Channeling his love for Big Band Jazz and Swing music, Crawford formed The Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra in 1990. A stickler for authenticity, he used the original music charts and even donning a top coat and tails.
He was born John Ernest Crawford on March 26, 1946 in Los Angeles, California into a musical and theatrical family. His grandparents were violinists in Germany, a Belgium, and the United States; music teachers; piano accompanists; composers, Broadway producers; managed Al Jolson; and played with Irving Berlin.
He spent two years in the United States Army where he was stationed in Queens, New York where he worked on producing training films.
When not on the set filming or in the recording studio; Crawford could frequently be found at the rodeo competing in steer wrestling, calf roping, bronc riding, bull riding, and trick roping.
Crawford is survived by his wife of 25 years Charlotte
Johnny Crawford Discography:
“The Captivating Johnny Crawford”
“A Young Man’s Fancy”
“Songs from ‘The Restless Ones’”
feature photo credit: Johnny Crawford’s Facebook page