A former college athlete at the University of Texas, Fess studied Drama in the early fifties and debuted in 'Springfield Rifle' (1952). He made only a handful of movies until he was signed by Walt Disney to star in the Davy Crockett series.
When Walt was looking for an actor to play the part of Davy, he screened the Sci-fi movie 'Them!' (1954) with James Arness. When he saw Fess in a scene, he chose him over Arness and Fess became an instant celebrity when 'Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier' debuted in 1955. His appeal with children was enormous with the coon-skinned hat and the hit song "Davey Crockett".
Fess appeared in other Disney movies dealing with the early years of Davey and also in non-Crockett parts such as 'Old Yeller' (1957). Fess played the frontiersman role once again with the TV series "Daniel Boone" (1964) and he played this role for six years.
Fess retired from the screen and went into real estate, which was profitable and a wine baron in Califormia.