June 13th, 2014
Vintage Article Reprint, November 1968
Everybody who meets Leif Erickson who plays Big John Cannon on NBC’s The High Chaparral asks him when Cannon is going to loosen up a little bit and smile.
Erickson has a great deal of confidence in the series and expects it to soar in the ratings this season. He and the entire cast work hard on the show and, at 57, he’s got several busted ribs, a sprained hand and other assorted bruises to prove his point.
When we inquired why he should be in such bad shape since he undoubtedly had a stunt man, Leif – not John Cannon – laughed again and said, ‘You should see my poor stunt man. He’s really busted up.”
“It’s already returning a healthy dividend,” admitted the actor, who has a god eye for a dollar. “You know the tourist business has increased since we’re on the air and visitors come through all the time, buy our photos for a quarter and then besiege us for autographs.
“I hinted that we could handle the action real friendly like and sell the autographed pictures personally for 75 cents a copy but a lot of the brass didn’t think it would dignified. I didn’t really expect them to approve.
It was suggested that perhaps Leif might like to move in on Lorne Greene’s plush territory and lead rodeos, act as a parade marshal, make records and become something of a one man money making machine.
“I haven’t got the energy,” he conceded. Lorne’s a much younger man (we estimate less than a 10-year spread). I might give the recording business a whirl…after all I broke in as a singer.”
But the former band singer with the Ted Fio-Rito Orchestra has no intention of back-tracking. His current plans call for recording a western style tone poem with he performed last year in front of a symphony orchestra, and judging by a few lines he tried out on us it could very well be a best seller.
In addition, he’s contemplating recording a poem his teenage daughter, Suzie, penned but such a move will be made only if the first album sells. A suggestion that he makes an LP of happy western tunes under the title of “John Cannon Laughs in Song” was not appreciated.
An actor who is recognized whenever he goes thanks to the magic of a TV series, Leif, like his costar Cameron Mitchell, had a long and distinguished career on Broadway and in Hollywood before Chaparral, but he’s obviously loving every minute of his new career.
An ardent sailor, he misses not being able to spend as much time as he used to on his boat, but envisions The High Chaparral as a possible ticket to retirement in Florida where he can boat until he’s water logged.