Everybody has said just about everything there is to say about the passing of Andy Griffith and the huge impact he has made on American culture. That doesn't mean I am not going to say my piece, too. I loved Andy Griffith and everything he ever did, including his Gospel album, "Precious Memories."
Everybody remembers the exploits of Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife. Opie Taylor was the kid everybody wished was theirs and Aunt Bee (whom I once dated -- ask James Milligan about it) was everybody's sweet aunt. To say the show was iconic would be to understate its relevance. And who doesn't know someone exactly like Floyd the barber? Earnest T. Bass, on the other hand, might just be one of a kind.
The residents of Mayberry are as familiar to me as the people I grew up with in Porterdale and when I sit down to watch re-runs of the show, all I have to see is a couple of seconds before saying to myself, "This is the one where Aunt Bee made the kerosene pickles." Or, "This is the one where Andy was sweet on the new female druggist in town." I even know that Barbara Eden did nails in Floyd's barber shop long before J.R. Ewing released her from that lamp on Cocoa Beach.
As good as that show's ensemble was, the Southern gentleman from Mt. Airy, N.C., was the star and the glue that held everything together. They didn't put his name in the title without good reason. But Andy Griffith made me laugh long before his first appearance in the Mayberry jail.
Way back in 1958 he appeared in a movie called "No Time for Sergeants," and I never missed it when it came on television. In fact, I still don't, and it remains one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. Andy Griffith never did need filth and nudity to make a good movie or foul language to make people laugh. If you aren't familiar with the latrine inspection scene in "No Time for Sergeants," you need to rectify that at your first possible opportunity.
It took me a long time to realize that the person who played Army draftee Will Stockdale in that movie was the same person who did "What It Was Was Football," on the old comedy record my daddy brought home one day. We played it until the grooves wore out.
But back to Mayberry. Before there was "The Andy Griffith Show," there was "Make Room for Daddy," with Danny Thomas. I watched every week. I think I had a crush on Angela Cartwright, who played Thomas's daughter on the show. The pilot for Griffith's show was actually an episode of "Make Room for Daddy." Danny Thomas' character was speeding through the town of Mayberry and was arrested for failure to stop at the stop sign --by Sheriff Andy Taylor. When Danny Thomas argued that he didn't stop at the sign because there was no road at the sign, Sheriff Taylor replied, "Well, they's gonna be a road, when we get the money to build it. So far all we got is enough for the stop sign."
When Thomas demanded a trial, Sheriff Taylor turned the Sheriff sign on his desk around so that the Justice of the Peace side was showing and presided over the trial. It was a funny, funny bit, and when it turned into a regular show the next year, I was a fan from day one and have been ever since.
I was also a fan of "Matlock," the show set in Atlanta in which Griffith played a crazy-like-a-fox Southern lawyer who may or may not have been inspired by legendary Atlanta attorney Bobby Lee Cook.
I was a fan of all of these shows, but primarily I was a fan of Andy Griffith. In one of his juiciest roles, in the made for television miniseries "Murder in Coweta County," he played a bad guy, John Wallace, who was the nemesis of Sheriff Lamar Potts, played by Johnny Cash. In the last scene of the series Griffith is strapped into the Georgia electric chair and prepares to die. A classic performance.
The first person I thought of when I learned that Griffith had died was Dennis Beatty, of the Jefferson Beatty's. Dennis and I coached together at Clarkston High School in the 1980s and were both huge fans of all things Mayberry. Dennis was apparently a bigger fan than me because when the cast of "The Andy Griffith Show" came to Atlanta to tape a reunion show for Channel 17, he called in sick to go to the reunion. It was just his luck to be called onto the stage to take part in a panel and the next day his picture was on the front page of the AJC -- seated right between Helen Crump and Thelma Lou, if memory serves me.
He said it was worth the grief he had to endure when our principal saw the newspaper.
Andy Griffith is gone. May he rest in peace. Andy Taylor will live forever.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.