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