Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Frontierland:The Rulers of Days Gone By!!!

While "digging through the crates" last week, I stumbled across a little something that took me back...way back.

I was sending my buddy Ryan, Editor-in-Chief at The Main Street Gazette, a collection of Disney World songs, some rare and some out of date, that I had found online. As I was going through this collection, I came across one song in particular, that caused me to stop dead in my tracks. It was the Finale from The Country Bear Jamboree.

Back before the days of Splash Mountain and even Big Thunder Mountain for that matter, there was an attraction that absolutely captured the imagination of three little boys from the Bronx...THE "E-Ticket" attraction of Frontierland, back in the day, was without question The Country Bear Jamboree.This weeks article is less about the show, which we all know and love, and more about a little boy (or three) who were obsessed with it.

We had always loved the show while we were on our family vacations to Walt Disney World, but thanks to a very special gift from Santa Claus on Christmas morning 1976, our obsession was taken to a whole new level...

Many people credit albums from their childhood or teen years for having a profound impression on them, an album that changed their lives. For some it was The Beatles, other had Jimi Hendrix or The Doors.For was this album... (Please Note: LAUGHING WILL NOT BE TOLLERATED!!!)

Now, at the tender age 6, I had amassed quite a collection of vinyl. That Christmas morning I added this album to that collection. Sandwiched on a shelf between a Jackson Five album and something by the Carpenters, this was now my prized possession.

I can not say with accuracy, just how many times we played that was certainly enough to know every song, word of word...and also enough to bring a grown man to tears (not sure if Dad looks back on those day as fondly as I do) but what I do know with certainty, in our room, it was on maximum rotation!!!

To this day, I quietly sing every song, every word for that matter, right along with the Bears. If my brother Frankie is there with me...we just may sing it out loud!!!
Our love of the Bears didn't end there. Back in those days there was "Bear's Swag a Plenty" to be found in the Magic Kingdom.

We loved all of the critters in that show, but there was no one quite like Big Al...he was an absolute stud back in those days, a Magic Kingdom SUPERSTAR!

There were Big Al plushes, Big Al books, Big Al buttons...and we had them all. He was the undisputed King of Frontierland and he ruled with an iron, paw!

Sadly, those days are behind us now. While you may come across the odd collectible or two, the "hey-day" of The Country Bears has long gone by. Not to mention the fact that The Country Bears has since departed from Disneyland. I certainly hope that same fate does not await them at Walt Disney World.

One really neat little treasure that has been lost from WDW's Frontierland, used to be just next door in the Mile Long Bar. While I was thrilled with it's replacement (after all, who doesn't LOVE Pecos Bill's) I do miss seeing the boys, Melvin, Buff and Buck, singing their hearts out for the crowds as they exited the show.
There wasn't much to it really, but to see Audio-animatronics, outside of an attraction, was very cool to me. I can remember walking out the exit of Grizzly Hall, looking forward to seeing them "belting out a little ditty" for the crowd.

As I had mentioned, I know the album word for word, but of all the songs in the show, I still get the most excited for the Grand Finale. I assume that if you are reading this Blog, you are well aquainted with these songs. The first song in the Finale is The Ballad of Davy Crockett, a classic by anyone's standards. The second song from the finale, is certainly the lesser known of the two. As a kid we always called it Bear Tracks. I had always assumed that it was written just for the show.

Some of you may already know this, but during my research earlier this week, I discovered that, after almost 38 years of being The Country Bears biggest fan, that this song is actually titled Ole Slew Foot and is a Blue Grass Classic.

I think that I have gone on about The Bears enough for one week.

Whether you are a huge fan of The Bears, who checks out the show each and every trip or a rare patron of Grizzly Hall, I urge you to stop by and take in the show next time you find yourself in Frontierland.

I hope you can see the MAGIC that captured three little boys back in the early 70's and possesses them, now grown men with their own little ones, to this very day.

~ Tony

PS. Here is just a little something to enjoy before you head off...a few videos to send some pixie dust your way.

The first selection is The Country Bears Finale, taken for 1971 Demo Footage of the show.The second is a vintage video of a performance of Ole Slew Foot by Jim & Jesse, back in 1976.

'Til next week...Enjoy!!!


  1. Tony,
    I loved this. As an original entrant into the Magic Kingdom in the year 1971, I soo remember the E-ticket and absolulely adore the Country Bear Jamboree. I remembered having an album with their songs, but I thought I was dreaming. When I saw the cover, I new it was real - now I have to try and find it.
    I am very saddened when I now go to the Country Bear Jamboree and there is never a line - so many people just do NOT know what they are missing. I was also surprised to hear that it has left Disneyland. I truly hope that never happens at DW!!
    Thanks for all your Disney efforts.

  2. I have to tell you Tony, when I first started scouring iTunes for old Disney albums, this was one of the first records I searched for. And I was so surprised, and excited, that it was available!

  3. Wow! I actually own that Big Albert book! I too miss Melvin, Buck and Buff outside the attraction. That always was a nice touch. Nice trip down memory lane!

  4. Tony,

    Yes! I had this album, also. Couldn't tell you how many times me and my neighbor "performed" the show alongside this soundtrack back in the day.

    I also love the fact that the WDW version of Grizzly Hall recently got some TLC in the form of a refurbishment. It used to break my heart that "Bear Band" was suffering from obvious maintenance issues. I saw the show again in January, 2009 and it was once again looking and sounding great.

    Keep those memories coming!

  5. Not only did the CBJ recieve a huge maintenance rehab last fall. It's still actually very popular. It still plays to packed houses at almost every performance.

    Sure, there may not always be a line snaking around outside the building, but I think it could be because the theater has a very high capacity and can seat a large number of guests.

    Let's just hope that they return the Country Bear Christmas Show sooner than later. Hope this will be the year that the overlay returns as planned...