Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What It Was

Andy Griffith passed away this morning, 3 July 2012 at 7AM, at his home in the small town of Manteo on Roanoke Island in North Carolina where he'd lived for many years. He was 86. Andrew Samuel "Andy" Griffith was born on 1 June 1926 in Mount Airy, North Carolina. His parents, Carl and Geneva, couldn't afford a home when he was born, so he lived with relatives for a short time. His interest in drama and music grew while attending Mount Airy High School. His minister, Ed Mickey of Grace Moravian Baptist Church, taught him to play trombone.

Here are a few interesting facts about Andy Griffith:

He and Marilyn Monroe were born on the same day.

He was an English teacher for a while at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, North Carolina. NPR's Carl Kasell was one of his students.

He starred in an episode of the United States Steel Hour television anthology show called No Time For Sergeants in March 1955. He starred in the film version of that story in 1958, which is where he met met his long time friend Don Knotts. That show is considered the inspiration behind the television sitcom, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., which was a spin-off of the Andy Griffith Show starring Jim Nabors.

He was married three times, first to Barbara Bray Edwards in 1949, then to Greek actress Solica Cassuto in 1975, and finally to Cindi Knight in 1983.

Although he played several characters in uniform, including Air Force, Coast Guard, and Sheriff, he was never in the military.

Little Opie Taylor, Ronnie Howard, grew up and played Richie Cunningham on Happy Days, then became a Hollywood producer. Little Ronnie's real-life father, Rance, and his younger brother, Leon, both appeared in supporting roles on the Andy Griffith Show.

The idea behind the Andy Griffith Show was tested by producer Sheldon Leonard in 1960 when Andy appeared in an episode of Make Room For Daddy, starring Danny Thomas, as a hick town county sheriff, justice of the peace, and editor of the local newspaper, who pulls Danny Thomas over for speeding. Ronnie Howard was also featured in that same episode.

Andy Griffith helped write nearly every script for his long running television sitcom, even though he never received screen credit as one of the writers.

Don Knotts, who played Andy's deputy and cousin Barney Fife, won numerous Emmy Awards for his role in the Andy Griffith Show even though Andy himself was never even nominated for that award.

Andy's follow-up show, Matlock, was very successful in the ratings and won four Emmy Awards. Again, Andy himself was never nominated.

In November 2006, a guy named William Harold Fenrick legally changed his name to Andrew Jackson Griffith when he ran for sheriff of Grant County Wisconsin. Andy Griffith sued him for Trademark infringement, but lost that case.

In 1984, lifelong Democrat Andy Griffith declined an offer to run for a seat on the U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Jesse Helms.

In April 1983, Andy was diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome which left him unable to walk for several months due to paralysis in his lower legs.

In May 2000, Andy underwent quadruple heart-bypass surgery at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.

In September 2007, after falling down, Andy underwent hip surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Following his instructions, Andy Griffith was buried within five hours of his death.

There are many more interesting bits of trivia about the Andy Griffith Show available here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053479/trivia

Here are a few selections from the Andy Griffith collection on MusicMaster Oldies.

This was his only top ten hit, a comedy monologue called What It Was, Was Football. After becoming a legendary comedy bit around North Carolina, it was released on Capitol 2693 in 1954:

Here's the follow-up bit that peaked at #26 a month later, Romeo And Juliet on Capitol 2698 from 1954:

Both of the above were credited to Deacon Andy Griffith and spanned both sides of the record (split into parts one and two). They were issued on both 78 RPM and 45 RPM singles. In 1955, Andy Griffith made the charts once more with this parody of a popular song at the time, Make Yourself Comfortable on Capitol 3057. Backed by Burt Massengale's orchestra, the female voice is Jean Wilson:

In 1959, Andy tried his hand at serious singing with an album called Andy Griffith Shouts The Blues And Old-Timey Songs, unfortunately with very little success. This track, a cover of House Of The Rising Son, was later played as an example of epic fail attempts by celebrities to become mainstream singers:

Finally, here's something fun that came from Capitol EP PRO 1878/1879. It's Andy Griffith singing the theme song from his television show - with the original lyrics! This is called The Fishin' Hole:

There are ten Andy Griffith songs in rotation on MusicMaster Oldies. I'll go through his catalog of singles and albums and see if I can find anything else that might be interesting.

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