America's Favorite Sheriff Takes Off the Badge
ANDY GRIFFITH, SINGER, ACTOR AND COMEDIAN PASSED AWAY TUESDAY morning at 7 am in his Manteo, North Carolina, home on the Outer Banks.
Griffith is most widely known for his television roles as Sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Giffith Show and the title character Ben Matlock in the legal drama series Matlock. But his skills as an entertainer went beyond his television programs, popular as they were.
Andy Griffith was born on June 1, 1926, in Mount Airy, North Carolina. His home town served as the model for his fictional town of Mayberry where he and Don Knotts kept the peace on the Andy Griffith Show. He grew up in Mount Airy and while he was in high school he joined the drama club and started learning his craft. His Baptist preacher discovered and nurtured Andy's musical talent, teaching him how to read music and play the trombone.
Following his graduation, Andy attended the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and graduated with a bachelor's degree in music. While at university he honed his musical stage talents performing in several operettas. Following his college years, he needed a real job before he could take the risk of finding work in the entertainment field, so he taught high school English for a few years at Goldsboro High School in North Carolina. On nights and weekends he developed his craft as a stand-up comedian reciting humorous monologues. One of those routines, What It Was, Was Football, was recorded on a single disc and issued where it became a big hit on the radio in 1953.
I was just a young teenager when that record came out and it got lots of play on the country music station that I listened to. To this day, I have always recalled that classic bit of comedy that propelled Andy Griffith into the "big time." Take a few minutes and relive that bit of nostalgia with me:
It always was a wish of mine that one day I would get to meet Andy in person and be able to tell him, "I do believe I'll have another big orange!" But alas, that day will never get here now.
During those years of comedy routines, he also made several phonograph recordings of his singing, mostly Gospel music but some standard songs as well. But after his Football record became a national hit, he began showing up on television. One of his first appearances was on the U. S. Steel Hour where he played the lead in No Time For Sergeants in March 1955. The popular reception to that show quickly led to an expanded version appearing on Broadway and from there he was launched into permanent stardom. Two years later he played the lead in another Broadway production, Destry Rides Again.
Following this latest success on the stage, he was cast in his first major motion picture in 1957 playing a dramatic role in A Face In The Crowd that co-starred Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau, and Lee Remick who was making her film debut as well. The next year, he once again repriesed his role in No Time For Sergeants, but this time in a feature-length motion picture. Again, he was a national hit. It was in the making of this film that comic actor Don Knotts was cast a role beginning a life-long association for the duo.
After playing a few one-offs on various tv shows, he was awarded his own series in 1960 starring as Sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show. And from there he became a genuine super-star. The show, that featured budding child star Ron Howard, ran for eight seasons and Griffith was one of the writers on every episode. After that run, he bounced around in several other series that never caught on before he had to take a year's hiatus to recuperate from a rare illness.
In 1986 he sailed back into the limelight with a big tv hit series, Matlock. This show ran nine seasons, longer than the Mayberry show.
Andy Griffith never stopped working, appearing in tv shows and plays right on up until this year. He had lived in Manteo for more than 30 years. He will be missed, but his tv hit series' will be with us for a long time. God bless Andy Griffith, a man who provided genuine entertainment and a smile for everybody.
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