Music and Mayberry I

In honor of Gospel Music week in Nashville, ChristianActivities.com asked several Christian artists to share their thoughts about Mayberry.
Andy Griffith’s name is as synonymous with music as it is “The Andy Griffith Show”(TAGS). When he was a child in Sunday School in Mt. Airy, North Carolina where he was born and raised (and one of the inspirations for Mayberry), Andy claims, “I would sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ so loud that everybody would notice.” He says when he hit his teens he discovered big band and swing music and he also saw
‘Birth of the Blues’ which starred Bing Crosby. “Of course, it had Dixie Land Band. At some point Jack
Teagarten, one of the great trombone players, took the slide off his trombone and played with a water
glass on the end of his slide. I thought that was the neatest thing.” So began Griffith’s life-long love affair with music.
Griffith took music lessons and voice lessons from a local pastor in high school. This pastor had a great influence on young Andy and encouraged him to pursue a career in the ministry. However, in college Griffith changed his major from a ministerial degree to a music degree. “After graduation I took a job teaching high school choral music in Goldsboro, North Carolina. I was director of the choir at the First Baptist Church there and for a while I conducted the community chorus.” He continued in this position until the acting bug bit him but even then, music was always a part of Andy Griffith as his ubiquitous guitar showed up not only in “The Andy Griffith Show” but in Matlock as well. Griffith recorded numerous albums and ultimately went on to record two gospel albums in the 90’s, winning a Grammy in the process.
Music was woven into the fabric of Mayberry as Andy played on the porch at the end of many an episode. Music was featured in the story line over and over from Andy’s barbershop quartet, to Rafe Hollister’s golden vocal chords, to the Darling’s family mountain band, to the All Soul’s Church choir. Music was definitely in integral part of Mayberry. As that famous Mayberry philosopher Briscoe Darling once said, “Got time to breathe, got time for music!”
It is not surprising to learn that Mayberry has left its mark on the Christian music industry. At this year’s Gospel Music Week in Nashville, Tennessee during April, I had the opportunity to ask many of today’s Christian artists what they thought about “The Andy Griffith Show.”
I asked several Christian artists from other countries if they were familiar with TAGS. Every one I asked was at least somewhat familiar with the show. The Parachute Band from New Zealand immediately began to whistle the theme song. Patty Cabrera (named one of “People’s most beautiful people) also said the whistled tune was her main memory of the show. Ileana Garces watched it occasionally in Guatemala. “It is real cheesy in Spanish,” she said with a laugh. Freddie Colloca watched it in Argentina, mainly in an effort to learn English. I hope Freddie didn’t lean too heavily on ole Barn in his “compelshun” to learn English or else he’ll be talking about “kleptomineracs” and other Barneyisms!

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Assiria, wife of legendary Brazilian soccer player, Pele, said that although it has been 17 years since she has seen “The Andy Griffith Show,” she enjoyed watching the show, especially the antics of Andy and Barney, “the funny one.” “It was innocent. Shows nowadays are so sexual. ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ was a pure humor.”

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The artists from North America would seem to agree. “I have every episode on tape and I used to have all the license plate numbers memorized,” singer/songwriter Gary Chapman told me going on to say he was once a member of “The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club” (TAGSRWC). “I have breakfast with Goober all the time.” George Lindsey, Ralph Emory, Ray Stephens and other old friends meet for breakfast on Saturdays and the former Sam’s Place host is often invited to join the boys. Gary’s favorite character is Barney, and he gave the Preamble to the Constitution and the Unplugged Microphone as his two favorite episodes. Gary grew up in a small town that “reflected Mayberry” and he said there was even a town constable that was a dead ringer for Barney Fife. “Mayberry represents the best of the American dream. It’s the way it should be, the values, integrity and richness of its character.”

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“Oh yeah! Barney and Andy!” exclaimed John Schlitt from veteran Christian rock group, Petra. Although he claimed Andy could be a little bit dull at times, he said, “I loved those episodes with Barney whenever he had to pull out his bullet and usually shot himself in the foot.” He called the show “very wholesome where the worst word was ‘shucks'” and said, “It is a shame TV went in such a negative direction for so long.” John said he is also a big fan of “Mr. Limpet.”

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Singer and respected women’s speaker Kim Hill said she watched it faithfully as a little kid. and said Opie was her favorite character. “He was such a cute little kid. I thought it was cool about his life and stuff.” Kim added, “You can start whistling that song and everyone knows it.”
One of the most popular male artists in Christian music,Wayne Watson is a six-time Dove Award winner and has ben nominated for two
Grammy awards. He continues to climb the radio charts with 22 #1 Radio
singles, and will release his 16th album in Spring of 2003.
Wayne claims, “Not only am I an Andy Griffith fan, I am also pretty up on Trivia. The
local Christian radio station here knew of my interest and on the 30th
Anniversary of the show held a trivia face off with me and wife of a staff
member. Before the question was finished, I had the answer. On the other
end of the phone, there was silence and a few low groans then someone
whispered, ‘Oh my gosh, he knows the answer before we even finish the
question’. I proceeded to blow the competition away. Thank you. Thanks. No
really, thank you.
Our family has watched TAGS for all thirty years in one form or another. My
kids and I can verbally spar and replay old scenes which usually draws looks
of disbelief from observers. Maybe I’ve had too much free time.
However, TAGS is one of those classic shows that can be funny and inspiring
at the same time without being corny. There are more than a few life lessons
about friendship, relationships in general, raising family, etc found in the
content of this wonderful television program. In my opinion, nothing else
comes close.”

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Mark Gershmehl was one of the founding members of one of CCM’s most enduring groups, WhiteHeart, and is now pursuing a solo career as Gersh. Commenting on the show he said, “It was probably the most balanced cast and showed the beauty of teams and teamwork. Gersh said he loved the “goodness” of it and added, “I don’t think it has to by that mythological. I believe pockets exist today like in the Mithford books.” When asked who his favorite character was Gersh enthusiastically attested, “Barney! My gosh, what a character!” He especially liked the episode “where Barney got the motorcycle.” Now that he is a father, Gersh finds he appreciates Andy more. “I love the fatherliness of Andy.”
New artist Jason Ingram, born in 1974, has spent a lot of time watching the Andy Griffith Show. His favorite character is Floyd the barber. Jason said Floyd was “the most peculiar man I’ve ever seen on tv.
Comedian Bob Smiley says, “I love the ‘Andy Griffith Show’ for many reasons. I actually grew up in a town smaller than Mayberry…we use to watch the Andy Griffith Show just to dream that one
day our town might be that big!”
Bob named Barney Fife as his favorite character. “I could identify with the “want to do good but it never works out”
lifestyle of that deputy. I feel like we are all a bunch of Barney Fife’s and we should just keep our bullet in our pocket and try to
follow what God instructs us to do. Unfortunately, many times we go off on our own and mess things up. And, just like the “Andy
Griffith Show”, our sheriff comes along and helps us through our messed up situations and ultimately is going to save us in the
end.”

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Long-time Christian performer Geoff Moore said his favorite character has to be Barney “in any one-bullet episode,” apologizing, “I’m sorry, I know everyone says that.” He then listed his other favorites as: Opie, Aunt Bee, Floyd, adding, “Andy was a great encourager.”
Phillip Kim, President of NSOUL Records is an artist in the band Hop Sing, used to be in Raspberry JAM, and used to run Metro One. He said, “I do love the Andy Griffith show and my favorite character has to be Opie. I mean how can you not love Ron Howard who has now become such a heavy weight player in the industry. One of the few child stars that seems to have made it through the Hollywood system somewhat intact! I have some Mayberry Trivia for ya! There are two episodes of Star Trek (the original series with William Shatner which I love even more than the AG show) that actually use the sets of the Andy
Griffith Show. Here is a quote from http://www.Mayberry.com. ‘Mayberry… in 2 episodes of Star Trek, the original series. The Episodes are “Miri” and “The City on the Edge of Forever”. Both have some great glimpses of Mayberry that we normally never see in a TAGS episode.’ You can view the abandoned ghost town of Mayberry with the cast of Star Trek by visiting Mayberry.com”
Fusebox recently released the album, LOST
IN WORSHIP on Elevate Records (Inpop). Fusebox has
also been the touring band for popular Australian Christian artist Rebecca St.James for many years. The band just happens to love The Andy Griffith Show.
Bill’s favorite episode is the one where Opie shot a
bird in a tree.
Guy likes the episode, where a character played by Bob
Denver (Gilligan’s Island), was trying to find a wife.
Steve’s favorite was the one where the bank robbers
scammed Barney.
Brad loves the show where Barney get’s the police
motorcycle.
Fusebox and writer Kurtis Kegley closed their time by whistling the Andy
Griffith show theme together.
The one dissenting view on TAGS came from producer, performer and manager, Mark Chesshire. “I don’t understand why everyone holds ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ up as this paragon of virtue and integrity. They lied and covered up for someone on every show and one of the main characters was always drunk!” He added, “This is a family show…and none of the main characters were married!!! And those who were…we rarely got to hear about them or ever see them. So much for the All American Family Show.”
Rather than argue with Mark (who is a good friend) or point out the exaggeration in his statement, I have to agree, there was some doctoring of the truth on many episodes as Barney tries to cover up his mistakes and Andy chooses to be governed by his heart rather than the book. The show was also unusual for its time depicting a single (widowed) father trying to raise a son with the help of his Aunt Bee rather than a traditional family. Perhaps it is these struggles and flaws of character that make us love Andy, Opie, Otis and Barney so much. We can see ourselves and our human weaknesses in them while relating to them as they try to help each other and learn from their mistakes. In the end, in spite of their weaknesses, each show makes clear that the faults of these beloved characters are quite human, but their strengths stem from their friendships, their families, and the loving God they worshipped at All Souls Church. There are important lessons to be learned from all of the characters, including Otis, (who ultimately gave up alcohol and became an ice cream man.)
Related Links:
Archive of Past Mayberry Articles
Andy Griffith — Old Wood and Wine
A Touch of Mayberry Comes to Nashville
Mayberry Poem – “A Tribute to Mayberry”
Two New Mayberry Books
The Way Back to Mayberry
Add your Mayberry event to our calendar
Christian Activities Mayberry Forum

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