Johnny Crawford

John Ernest Crawford (born March 26, 1946) is an American actor, singer, and musician. At age 12, Crawford rose to prominence playing Mark McCain, the son of Lucas McCain (played by Chuck Connors), in the popular ABC Western series, The Rifleman, which aired from 1958 to 1963. Crawford first performed before a national audience as a Mouseketeer.

Johnny Crawford
Crawford in The Rifleman (1961)
John Ernest Crawford

(1946-03-26) March 26, 1946
  • Actor
  • singer
  • musician
  • band leader
Years active1955–1999
Charlotte (McKenna) Crawford (m. 1995)
RelativesRobert L. Crawford Jr. (brother)

Family life

Crawford was born in Los Angeles, the son of Betty (née Megerlin) and Robert Lawrence Crawford Sr. His maternal grandparents were Belgian; his maternal grandfather was violinist Alfred Eugene Megerlin.[1][2][3] In 1959, Johnny, his older brother Robert L. Crawford Jr., a co-star of NBC's Laramie series, and their father Robert Sr. were all nominated for Emmy Awards (the brothers for acting and their father for film editing).[4]


One of The Walt Disney Company's original Mouseketeers, in 1955, Crawford had acted on stage, in films, and on television.

Disney started out with 24 original Mouseketeers. However, at the end of the first season, the studio reduced the number to 12, and Crawford was released from his contract. His first important break as an actor followed with the title role in a Lux Video Theatre production of "Little Boy Lost", a live NBC broadcast on March 15, 1956. He also appeared in the popular Western series The Lone Ranger, in 1956, in one of the few color episodes of that series.[5] Following that performance, the young actor worked steadily with many seasoned actors and directors. Freelancing for 2 1/2 years, he accumulated almost 60 television credits, including featured roles in three episodes of NBC's The Loretta Young Show and an appearance as Manuel in, "I Am an American", an episode of the syndicated crime drama Sheriff of Cochise. By the spring of 1958, he had also performed 14 demanding roles in live teleplays for NBC's Matinee Theatre,[6] appeared on CBS's sitcom, Mr. Adams and Eve, in the Wagon Train episode "The Sally Potter Story" (in which Martin Milner also appeared) and on the syndicated series, Crossroads, Sheriff of Cochise, and Whirlybirds, and made three pilots of TV series. The third pilot, which was made as an episode of Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater, was picked up by ABC and the first season of The Rifleman began filming in July 1958.

Crawford was nominated for an Emmy Award as Best Supporting Actor,[7] at age 13, for his role as Mark McCain, the son of Lucas McCain, played by Chuck Connors, in the American Broadcasting Company's series[7] produced by Four Star Television, The Rifleman. (He also played a young boy named Clay Holden who befriends Connors in a 1965 episode of “Branded”.) Throughout The Rifleman's five seasons, a remarkable on-screen chemistry existed between Connors and Crawford in the depiction of their father-son relationship. They were still close friends when Connors died on November 10, 1992, and Crawford gave a eulogy at Connors' memorial service.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Crawford had wide popularity with American teenagers and a recording career that generated four Billboard Top 40 hits, including the single, "Cindy's Birthday", which peaked at number 8, in 1962. His other hits included "Rumors" (number 12, 1962), "Your Nose is Gonna Grow" (number 14, 1962), and "Proud" (number 29, 1963).[8]

Crawford played Jeff, Wilbur's neighbor in Mister Ed - season 6, episode 2 (1965) - who was more interested in pop music than his algebra.[9]

Late in 1961, Crawford appeared as Victor in the episode "A Very Bright Boy" of the ABC sitcom, The Donna Reed Show.[10] His brother Robert had also been a guest star on The Donna Reed Show. Once in 1964 and once in 1965, Crawford appeared on the NBC education drama Mr. Novak playing JoJo Rizzo.[11]

Among his films, Crawford played an American Indian in the unique adventure film, Indian Paint (1965).[12] He played a character involved with a disturbed young girl played by Kim Darby in The Restless Ones (1965); and played a character shot by John Wayne's character in El Dorado (1967).[13] He played a young deputy Billy Norris, in The Big Valley episode "The Other Face Of Justice" in 1969.[14]

While enlisted in the United States Army for two years, Crawford worked on training films[15] as a production coordinator, assistant director, script supervisor, and occasional actor. His rank was sergeant at the time of his honorable discharge in December 1967.

In 1968, Crawford played a soldier wanted for murder in "By the Numbers", an episode of the popular TV series Hawaii Five-O.[16]

The Resurrection of Broncho Billy was a USC student film Crawford agreed to do as a favor to his close friend, producer John Longenecker. It won the 1970 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Subject.

The Naked Ape was a partially animated 1973 feature film starring Crawford and Victoria Principal, produced by Hugh Hefner.[17]

In 1976, Johnny Crawford co-starred as Ben Shelby in the tenth episode of season three of Little House on the Prairie, "The Hunters".[18]

In 1985, Crawford appeared as Noah Paisley, sheriff's deputy, in an episode of Murder, She Wrote.[19]

Since 1992, Crawford has led a California-based vintage dance orchestra which performs at special events. His band has been sponsored by the Playboy Jazz Festival,[20] and the orchestra has been the choice for 15 consecutive annual Art Directors Guild Awards shows at the Beverly Hilton, in Beverly Hills.[21] A remastered version of the orchestra's highly rated [22] first album, Sweepin' the Clouds Away, was released on August 21, 2012, on the CD Baby (distributor) label.[23] The formal name of the band was JCO (Johnny Crawford Orchestra). The JCO logo appeared on Crawford's drums when the band played in Las Vegas.

Personal life

In the early seventies Crawford dated Debra Tate, sister of the late actress Sharon Tate.

Crawford reconnected with his high school sweetheart, Charlotte Samco, in 1990, and they married in 1995.[24]

Crawford had a key role in the early career of entertainer Victoria Jackson, of Saturday Night Live fame. After the two appeared together in a summer stock production of Meet Me in St. Louis, he presented her with a one-way ticket to California and encouraged her to pursue a Hollywood career. This led Jackson to early appearances on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, before she was cast as a regular on SNL.[25]

In 2019, multiple sources reported that Crawford has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.[26]


Year Single (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Chart positions Album
1961 "Daydreams"
b/w "So Goes The Story" (Non-album track)
70 The Captivating Johnny Crawford
"Your Love Is Growing Cold"
b/w "Treasure"
1962 "Patti Ann"
b/w "Donna"
"Cindy's Birthday"
b/w "Something Special"
8 A Young Man's Fancy
"Your Nose Is Gonna Grow"
b/w "Mr. Blue"
b/w "No One Really Loves A Clown"
12 Rumors
1963 "Proud"
b/w "Lonesome Town" (from Rumors)
29 His Greatest Hits
"Cry on My Shoulder"
b/w "When I Fall in Love" (from His Greatest Hits Vol. #2)
126 Rumors
"What Happened To Janie"
b/w "Petite Chanson" (from Rumors)
His Greatest Hits Vol. #2
"Cindy's Gonna Cry"
b/w "Debbie" (from A Young Man's Fancy)
1964 "Judy Loves Me"
b/w "Living in the Past" (from Rumors)
b/w "Ol' Shorty" (Non-album track)
1965 "(Once Upon A Time) The Girl Next Door"
b/w "Sittin' and A Watchin'" (from A Young Man's Fancy)
"Am I Too Young"
b/w "Janie Please Believe Me" (from Rumors)
- Non-album tracks
1967 "Angelica"
b/w "Everybody Has Their Day"
1968 "Everyone Should Own A Dream"
b/w "Good Guys Finish Last"
  • AAlso peaked at #2 in Billboard Adult Contemporary charts.


  1. "Western Stars Ride into Portsmouth". Portsmouth Daily Times. Portsmouth, Ohio. June 4, 1997. p. A4. Retrieved January 25, 2014.
  2. "Johnny Crawford ... 'the Son of Rifleman'". TV Week Magazine. The Evening Independent. St. Petersburg, Florida. May 24, 1959. p. 7. Retrieved January 25, 2014.
  3. "Answers: Johnny Crawford A Mixture". The Evening Independent. St. Petersburg, Florida. November 20, 1963. p. A9. Retrieved January 25, 2014. His mother is from Belgium.
  4. "Primetime Emmy Awards (1959)". IMDb. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  5. "The Cross of Santo Domingo". October 11, 1956. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  6. "Matinee Theatre". Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  7. "Johnny Crawford - Television Academy". Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  8. "Johnny Crawford". Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  9. "Ed a Go-Go". September 19, 1965. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  10. ""A Very Bright Boy" on The Donna Reed Show, December 21, 1961". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
  11. "Mr. Novak (TV Series 1963–1965)". Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  12. "Indian Paint". Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  13. "The Rifleman Q&A – Johnny Crawford (Mark McCain)". Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  14. "The Other Face of Justice". March 31, 1969. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  15. "Johnny Crawford - The Restless Ones". Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  16. "By the Numbers". December 12, 1968. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  17. "Johnny Crawford: The Naked Ape". Mary Anderson. Retrieved January 25, 2014.
  18. "The Hunters". December 20, 1976. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  19. ""Murder, She Wrote" A Lady in the Lake (TV Episode 1985)". Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  20. "Playboy Jazz Festival - Free Concert in Beverly Hills - May 2nd, 2010 - - Concerts & Festivals!". April 27, 2010. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  21. "RIGHT ON TARGET". Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  22. " Customer reviews: Sweepin' the Clouds Away (Remastered)". Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  23. "Sweepin' the Clouds Away",; accessed April 11, 2015.
  24. "Johnny Crawford". Scott Stander. Retrieved January 25, 2014.
  25. "Angry Woman – Victoria Jackson on "Tonight Show" b/w". Youtube. Retrieved January 25, 2014.
  26. "See Johnny Crawford in his first acting role in 20 years". MeTV. Retrieved October 26, 2019.
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