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The Life and Works of Andy Griffith: From The Ed Sullivan Show to Matlock

Updated on September 19, 2012

Who Was Andy Griffith

On Tuesday, July 3, 2012, America lost an icon, Andrew Samuel Griffith. Better known as the fearless sheriff, Andy Taylor, on the 1960's sitcom TV show, The Andy Griffith Show, or Ben Matlock on the TV show, Matlock in the '80's and '90's, Andy Griffith entertained us for decades. Even young children today know the name thanks to reruns and TV Land.

Andy Griffith, as he was known, was born in Mount Airy, North Carolna on June 1, 1926. He lived with relatives until his father could find a job and secure a home for the family. Even though he was from a working class home, he learned to use humor as a means of relating to his peers. At Mount Airy High School, he was involved in the drama program and developed his love for music. For college, he attended the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, beginning his college career studying to be a minister. He changed his major to music, however, and graduated in 1949 with a Bachelor's Degree in Music. After graduating, he taught music and drama at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, NC.

Football Comedy Monologue recorded in 1953

What It Was Was Football

Andy Begins His Dramatic Career

Using his love of humor, Andy Griffith began his career writing and performing humorous monologues. His most famous one titled, "What It Was Was Football", detailed the experience of a backwoods buffoon trying to understand and explain the game of football. This was released in 1953 and became so popular that it led to appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and the Steve Allen Show. (This by the way is one of my all time favorites).

Before Mayberry, Andy had the following credits to his name:

  • Will Stockade, a country bumpkin in "No Time For Sergeants", which earned him a Tony Award
  • Lonesome Rhodes, a sinister character in "A Face in the Crowd"
  • "Destry Rides Again", musical performance which earned him another Tony Award in
    1959.

From 1960 to 1968, Andy starred as the down to earth sheriff of Mayberry in The Andy Griffith Show. This show propelled the actor to fame. When the show ended, he attempted two other TV series, "The Headmaster" (he was a principal working with troubled youth), and "The New Andy Griffith Show", (he was a mayor of a small North Carolina town). Both of these series ended in their first season. During the end of the 1970s, he appeared in some made for TV movies and occasional mini series. He won an Emmy nomination for his role in "Murder in Texas", but didn't win.

The TV show, "Matlock", was created after Griffith played a role as a prosecuting attorney in the mini-series, "Fatal Vision". "Matlock" ran for 9 years, from 1986 to 1995.

Griffith won a Grammy for his album, "I Love to Tell the Story" in 1996, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.


So What Made Andy Griffith So Special?

This man became a legend, a national hero of sorts, but what made him so special to people? I think Andy Griffith represents things that we only wish were possible. He represented small town values and a simplistic way of life. The Andy Griffith Show gave us a father who was always there for his son, who taught his son core values, and spent quality time with his son. Time didn't have to be measured by monitary value, but quantity and quality. He represented what was good and right.

Matlock gave us a comedic, bumbling defense attorney that always solved the crime. Justice always prevailed. We had a sense that right could always win out over wrong. In the world of Matlock, simplicity was the key and we learned to follow the clues and think out of the box. Again, family and friendships were very important, the most important thing, and were never compromised.

If only our world ran like the worlds of Andy Taylor and Ben Matlock.

Thank you Andy Griffith for giving us the gift of laughter through the decades and across generations. You will be greatly missed!!

Andy Griffith Items

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      iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

      Andy holds a placein my heart. I grew up watching his show. I just saw his fabulous performance in the Waitress...a much see! I had no idea he hd won two Tony Awards...wow! Great tribute by the way!

    • TripleAMom profile image
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      TripleAMom 4 years ago from Florida

      jamaudraleigh, thank you. I grew up watching him also. Could not get enough of the Andy Griffith show, and when I heard his monologues (the entire album is fantastic of course) I laughed the whole way through. I grew up on football, so his explanation in that monologue was hysterical. Glad you enjoyed.

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      Hillary 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I too grew up loving The Andy Griffith Show (and the re-runs!) As an adult I spent many years at TBS doing promos for the show so i've seen all the episodes! I never tired of them and that show helped put TBS and Ted Turner on the map. Thanks for a fitting tribute. Cheers!

    • TripleAMom profile image
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      TripleAMom 4 years ago from Florida

      Green Lotus, thanks for reading and commenting. What a great job to promo this show!! I so enjoyed all of his work. He'll be missed.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I haven't seen him in any other shows outside of Mayberry and Matlock. I will have to check your listing at the library. He was a kind, humble, God-fearing many who left quite an impressive legacy for others to remember. They just had a movie marathon on TV yesterday, and I had such a good time watching some of the earlier episodes of Mayberry USA. Thanks for sharing the history and background of this wonderful person. Voted up.

    • TripleAMom profile image
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      TripleAMom 4 years ago from Florida

      Thanks teaches. I didn't realize some of the things about him either, but it was nice to do the research and learn. He was one of my favorites, along with Don Knotts and many of the oldies (Bob Hope, etc). Not many like them today.

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      Gail Sobotkin 4 years ago from South Carolina

      I loved Andy Griffith for the reasons you stated and enjoyed this hub because it taught me many things I didn't know about his formative years and the theatrical years before he starred in The Andy Griffith Show.

      The What it Was Was Football recording is a hoot.

      Voted up across the board.

    • TripleAMom profile image
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      TripleAMom 4 years ago from Florida

      Thanks happyboomernurse-I have always loved Andy Griffith, and as an avid football fan from early childhood, I have loved his football clip. He will definately be missed. Thanks for commenting and voting!!

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