Andy Griffith passed away Friday. To anyone under 30, that might have gone unnoticed. To those anyone older than that, well, could we see the hands of all the people reading this who feel a little like they grew up a bit under the influence of the characters of “Mayberry?”
I thought so. Personally, I remember being home from school with the sniffles, curled up on the couch in a blanket, my suffering made a bit easier by Andy and friends.
Andy Griffith had many successes in his acting career, including the country lawyer named Matlock. But none defined a man or an era like The Andy Griffith Show and the people of the imaginary town of Mayberry. Who couldn’t identify with Barney Fife, Opie, Gomer, Aunt Bea and the gang. When Jim Nabors left to create the highly successful Gomer Pyle, USMC, the program successfully replaced him with his “brother” Goober and never missed a beat. Don Knotts became famous as the bungling deputy who got nothing right, but was still loved at the end of the day. The show’s actors and actresses won awards, but interestingly Griffith was never among those honored. He never complained.
The characters of Mayberry were endearing and the topics the show tackled were pretty cutting edge for a situation comedy in the 60’s. Always done tastefully, with understanding and class.
Class. That would be word that best described Andy Griffith. He refused to embroil himself in politics or other controversial situations, preferring to be “America’s Grandfather.”.
Just listening to Ron Howard, who started his career as Oppie, and has gone on to become a superstar in the entertainment industry, reflect on his relationship with Andy, tells you all you need to know. “He shaped my career and he helped me grow up. I have never met a finer man,” said Howard. Andy helped a country grow up. The 60’s were a time of social upheaval. We lost political leaders, went to Viet Nam, landed on the moon, discovered pot and flower children and generally rearranged the deck chairs like never before. We needed a rock, even if it was a television character.
As we celebrate our great country’s birthday this week, I can’t help but be a bit sad. Resources like Andy Griffith are not easily replaced. Certainly someone new will step up to be the country’s most beloved and humble elder non-statesman. Alas, that man will have big shoes to fill.
Thanks to Andy, for sharing his craft, and really, his philosophy of life with us during his journey. It was a tremendous gift, and it impacted far more people than he will ever know. Or maybe he did know.
It marks, to me, the end of an era. Mayberry and it’s people will live on forever, through the magic of film. It was from a simpler time and place. Andy and his Mayberry was our reality check all those years ago. Still might be.
PS – Donnie Anderson of our staff shared a link to a vocal version of the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show. For all these years, I didn’t know the song HAD words. I really enjoyed listening to it. A little corny, which seems absolutely perfect for the moment. Listen to it by clicking here. Thanks Donnie for sharing.