5 Rifleman episodes with great musical performances
There were folk songs, a ballad written specifically for the show and even one of Johnny Crawford’s 1960s singles!
While The Rifleman certainly wasn’t the only Western to incorporate musical performances, the classic series had an interesting mix of touching tunes, eerie ballads and even acoustic versions of pop singles.
While most of the songs were adapted from old folk refrains, there was also “Something Special” about a few melodies heard on the show.
Here are five episodes that paused the action and adventure to feature great musical moments.
1. The Vision
While The Rifleman had no shortage of action and intensity, the father-son dynamic gave the show a sweeter side that other Westerns lacked. One of the show’s most touching moments came in Johnny Crawford’s favorite episode “The Vision.” After hearing a traveling fortuneteller sing “Oh That We Two Were Maying,” Mark comes down with typhoid fever. While sick in bed, he dreams about his mother (played by the same actress as the fortuneteller) who sings the same song to him, this time in a beautiful, ethereal voice.
2. A Young Man’s Fancy
It makes sense that most of the songs on The Rifleman were folk songs from the 1800s. But in “A Young Man’s Fancy” the show snuck in an early 1960s single. It was an acoustic guitar version of “Something Special,” a song off Johnny Crawford's 1962 album also titled A Young Man’s Fancy. Mark sang the song to his first crush played by fellow Mickey Mouse Club star Cheryl Holdridge.
3. None So Blind
The “glory, glory hallelujah” chorus of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” rang out a few times on The Rifleman. In “None So Blind” it served as a fitting end to a dramatic episode about two men caught up in a rivalry stemming from their past. Blind banjo player Lafayette Blye belts out the hymn in the middle of the street. Soon, everyone in North Fork joins in before the credits role.
4. The Challenge
The haunting ballad about outlaw Jake Pardee from the episode “The Challenge” was written specifically for The Rifleman. The tune was composed by Herschel Burke Gilbert with lyrics by Alfred Perry. Gilbert wrote the iconic theme song for the series and he and Perry also came up with Johnny Crawford’s “Something Special.” One line in the song, sung by “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” vocalist Thurl Ravenscroft, mentions “Peckinpah’s saloon.” It’s a nod to Sam Peckinpah, who wrote six early episodes (including the pilot) before directing films like The Wild Bunch and The Ballad of Cable Hogue.
5. Old Tony
The Rifleman saved one of its best musical performances for last. “Old Tony” revolves around Mark and his girlfriend Lorrie, played by Leave it to Beaver’s Karen Sue Trent, softening the rough edges of the cantankerous title character who lives alone in the woods. When Tony mentions his love for the song “Greensleeves,” Mark sings a beautiful rendition of the tune while accompanying himself on guitar.