The cover art for Johnny Crawford's single ''Cindy’s Birthday'' is likely from the set of this special Rifleman episode

The man in the top hat hints at when the behind-the-scenes photo was taken.

Del-Fi Records

Johnny Crawford’s hit songs of the Sixties were all closely tied to his work on The Rifleman. The cover photo on his first single record “Daydreams” featured Johnny leaning on a saddle wearing a cowboy hat. It was released in 1961, three years after Mark and Lucas McCain first appeared on TV screens.

Crawford’s first two full-length albums came out the next year. The Captivating Johnny Crawford contained “Daydreams” and other singles like “Your Love is Growing Cold” and “Patti Ann.” His second LP, A Young Man’s Fancy, connected directly with a Rifleman episode of the same name. Mark serenades a new girl in town with the song “Something Special” – track four on the album.

The tune was also the B-side of Crawford’s most famous single “Cindy’s Birthday,” which peaked at number eight on the charts in 1962. The record with both songs made another clear Rifleman connection through its cover art. The photo was a behind-the-scenes snap of Johnny posing with a script in a director’s chair. A camera on a dolly and a microphone on the end of a long boom pole can be seen behind Crawford.

One other interesting quirk about the album cover? Another actor walking behind Johnny. The man is obviously in costume, wearing a top hat and bowtie. Though his face is turned away, he appears to have a small mustache as well. All these clues point to the silent henchman in the episode “The Princess.”

This unique installment of The Rifleman follows a mysterious woman, Jennifer, and her younger brother who come to the McCain ranch for help. She begins to fall for Lucas as he hears rumors that a European princess and her brother recently ran away from their boarding school in Denver. 

A well-dressed man and his silent, unnamed assistant come to town looking for Jennifer. They learn she is staying at the McCain ranch and ride out to confront Lucas. It’s a distinct episode that shows a tender side of The Rifleman’s tough titular hero. 

The top hat-wearing assistant character, who goes unmentioned in both the episode’s credits and on IMDb, bears a striking resemblance to the man in the background of the “Cindy’s Birthday” cover photo. The timing works out as well. “The Princess” originally aired in January of 1962 and Johnny Crawford’s hit single was released a few months later. 

One other season four Rifleman episode that has a similarly dressed character is “Sheer Terror.” However, the actor who plays the dapper criminal in that story doesn’t look nearly as much like the person in the record cover and the episode aired in October of 1961, about six months before the release of “Cindy’s Birthday.”

Without talking to someone who was there the day the photo was taken, it may be impossible to know for certain the circumstances surrounding this record cover image. But the timing of “The Princess,” not to mention the uncanny resemblance with one of the episode’s actors, seem to point to the fact that the cover art for Johnny Crawford’s best-known single was taken while filming this classic episode. 

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WordsmithWorks 9 months ago
As this is a bit before my time, I'm wondering if Crawford was really a popular singer or just one of many actors who think they can sing and are indulged with vanity projects.
LoveMETV22 WordsmithWorks 9 months ago
No he was a popular singer as well. Crawford scored eight Billboard Top 100 singles for Del-Fi Records beginning in 1961 at the height of the The Rifleman's success:
https://johnnycrawfordlegacy.com/biography-of-johnny-crawford/
Rick Nelson on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and Andy Griffith on The Andy Griffith Show also sang a different CINDY song on their
TV shows.
Andybandit 9 months ago
I didn't realize that Johnny Crawford sang also.
Cowgirl Andybandit 9 months ago
Yes he did. He even sang on the show a few times. 2 songs I remember him singing were "Something Special" & "Greensleeves". "Something Special" was written specifically for him to sing in the season 4 episode A Young Man's Fancy & he sang Greensleeves in the series' last episode Old Tony.
Cowgirl Cowgirl 9 months ago
I forgot to mention that he had his own band.
justjeff 9 months ago
It was not unusual at the time of "teen heart throbs" from movies and television of the 50s and 60s to do all kinds of tie-ins between their acting and singing careers. Take for example Edd Byrnes and Connie Stevens parlaying all of the "teen-hip" jargon of 77 Sunset Strip into the hit "Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)"...

Using a publicity still from a popular movie or TV program as the cover art for a 45 rpm picture sleeve or an album cover was just another way to tie both "identities" together... just like added word copy on such cover art such as "From the Donna Reed Show", "starring on CBS Television's Rawhide" or "20th Century Fox Star"...
harlow1313 justjeff 9 months ago
Thankfully, in just a few short years, we would get "If Six was Nine."
justjeff harlow1313 9 months ago
I had to look up that reference to learn it was a Hendrix song I was unfamiliar with... I guess I was in a "Purple Haze" while walking "All Along the Watchtower" with my "Foxy Lady"... Sorry about that, but "Let me stand next to your fire"... perhaps I can warm up to another tune by Hendrix... but, "Hey, Joe" while "The Wind Cries Mary" I'll be your "Voodoo Child"...
madvincent justjeff 9 months ago
You might want to go to the “Red House” but it’s hard to find on black and white TV.......
Pacificsun justjeff 9 months ago
Agreed. Back then listening to the radio everyday, in the background, etc., was as popular as television. So it was a natural cross-over opportunity. I remember loving to hear a popular cult hero co-producing several albums. But could back up his talent with a very strong musical instrument and arrangement background.
justjeff Pacificsun 9 months ago
Even good old Sheb Wooley from Rawhide scored with the novelty song "The Purple People Eater" and had hits on the country charts with his comedy alter-ego Ben Colder.

Ozzie Nelson used "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" as a showcase for Ricky's career. Paul Peterson and Shelley Fabares were kids on the Donna Reed Show when they had hits for the Colpix label.

The "Prefab Four" (The Monkees) were created as a total marketing campaign for TV and music tie-ins. I could probably fill up pages with other tie-in references, but you get the idea...

Some artists started out as singers who became actors, others were actors who became singers and all benefitted (to some degree) from the cross-promotion...
Anson Williams (Potsie on Happy Days)was a good singer on
Happy Days and I liked the
Happy Days Episode where
Potsie sang the Neil Sedaka
song called Calendar Girl.
DAPHNE (Hillary Horan) enjoyed
listening to Potsie sing
Calendar Girl.
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