The Andy Griffith Show Facts: What Don't You Know About This Classic?
When it comes to nostalgic television shows of the 1960s that took place in the heartland, nothing beats The Andy Griffith Show. A fantastic cast, featuring Griffith and fellow actors Don Knotts, Frances Bavier, and Ron Howard, made a lasting impression on so many Americans. After eight seasons, 249 episodes, numerous Emmy Awards, and high ratings, The Andy Griffith Show ended its incredible run in 1968. It has since been in reruns on classic television networks. In honor of the timeless classic, check out these 20 The Andy Griffith Show facts — including some behind-the-scenes secrets from the show and what happened to the lead actors in the years after the show went off the air.
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It Was a Spin-Off
The concept for The Andy Griffith Show originated from a February 1960 episode of The Danny Thomas Show, called “Danny Meets Andy Griffith,” which set the whole show in motion. A few months later, Griffith had his own show.
Griffith and Knotts Were Essentially BFFs
Griffith and co-star Don Knotts had a real friendship that transcended their roles together on the show. Their friendship formed years earlier in other productions. When Knotts passed away in 2006, Griffith was at his friend’s bedside.
The Rock Throw in the Opening Credits Was Not Real
During the show’s iconic opening credits, young Opie appears to throw a rock in a lake. However, Ron Howard, who was only six years old at the time, couldn’t muster enough strength to do that. Instead, a production assistant hiding behind a bush threw the rock into the lake.
The Show Went Off the Air While in First Place
The Andy Griffith Show ended its remarkable run in 1968 at the top of the Nielsen ratings. Only two other shows have been able to go out on top — I Love Lucy and Seinfeld.
Knotts Began Work on the Show Without a Contract
Despite Barney Fife being one of television’s most beloved characters, it turns out that he was not originally going to be a permanent character on the show. Knotts shot the pilot without even having a formal contract, but the producers were so amazed by his portrayal of Barney Fife, they gave him a contract the next day.
The Car Was As Iconic As the Show
The infamous squad car on The Andy Griffith Show was a Ford Galaxie 500. The producers of the show reportedly received a free Galaxie replacement from a local dealership whenever a new model came in. That’s why the car always looked brand new.
Mayberry Is a Fictional Town
Sorry fans, but the town of Mayberry, North Carolina — where the show took place — was completely made up. Some fans speculate that Mayberry is secretly based on Mount Airy, North Carolina — Griffith’s hometown — but the actor always denied this rumor.
Despite the denial, there’s quite a bit of fan fair to be seen in Mount Airy, including the statues pictured above.
The Theme Song Was Originally Different
Almost as iconic as the show itself was the theme song — called “The Fishin’ Hole” — which features a memorable whistling tune. However, the original version did not include whistling, but rather a lyrical version sung by Everett Sloane. The producers decided that the whistling version would work better.
The Show Paid Tribute to Fatherhood
Both Griffith and Howard later admitted that their father-son relationship on the show was dedicated to their respective dads. Griffith even said that his reactions to Howard on the show were based on the same reactions that his dad gave to him. And Howard said that his own father influenced how he would portray the relationship on the show.
It Was Adjusted for Color
Of the 249 episodes, which ran from 1960 to 1968, the first 159 were in black and white. The final 90 episodes of the show were in color, to account for the technical changes in most television programs at the time.
Andy Was Supposed to Be the Only Jokester
The original concept of the show featured Andy getting all of the punchlines. But after the first few episodes, the producers realized that Barney would serve as better comic relief for the show. That’s when they changed the show to make Andy the “setup man” and Barney the “funny man.”
How Did Andy Griffith Break His Hand?
Fans who watched the second season of the show might remember a plot involving Sheriff Taylor breaking his hand while fighting crime. In reality, Griffith broke his hand off camera. In a fit of rage, he reportedly punched a wall on the set.
There Was (Another) Spin-Off Series
After the series ended in 1968, many of the supporting characters returned for the spin-off show, Mayberry R.F.D. Although the show did not feature Griffith, it lasted for three full seasons on CBS before getting canceled.
What Did Andy Griffith Do Beyond the Show?
While remembered as the title character in the famous show that bears his name, Andy Griffith also had a prolific career on Broadway, where he won a Tony Award. He also played the lead character in another television show, Matlock. He died at the age of 86 in 2012.
The Series Led to Ron Howard’s Long-Lasting Career
After The Andy Griffith Show ended in 1968, Ron Howard went on to play the lead role in another iconic show, Happy Days. In recent decades, Howard became a leading Hollywood director. In 2001, he won the Academy Award for Best Director for A Beautiful Mind.
Knotts Had a Great Television Career
Before his death in 2006, Don Knotts returned to television to play the role of landlord Ralph Furley in Three’s Company. In later years, TV Guide ranked Knotts on its 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time list.
Bavier Went From the Stage to the Screen
Frances Bavier began her illustrious acting career in theatre, but she will forever be remembered for playing Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show. She even won the Emmy Award for Supporting Actress in 1968 for her role on the show. After the show ended, Bavier retired from acting. She passed away in 1989.
What’s Barney’s Middle Name?
If you were to ask Knotts what his character’s middle name was, he’d probably give you a few different answers. On some episodes he said it was Oliver, and on other episodes he said it was Milton. While the writers could not agree on a singular middle name for the character, Barney Fife remains one of the most memorable characters on the show.
The Relationship Between Andy and Barney Changed
In the first season, Andy and Barney were written as cousins. Apparently the writers didn’t like that, as the concept was soon dropped from the show entirely by the end of that season.
Barney Fife is such a beloved character that some fans (not the diehards, of course) may not realize that he wasn’t a part of the series for its full run. Don Knotts appeared on The Andy Griffith Show full-time from its beginning in 1960 until 1965, when the actor pulled up stakes to pursue a film career.
On the show, his departure is attributed to him taking a job as a detective in Raleigh, North Carolina. Despite his new priorities, Knotts continued to make guest appearances for the rest of the series’ run, and even appeared in the first episode of the Mayberry R.F.D. spin-off.
Griffith and Bavier Did Not Like Each Other
Off camera, Griffith and Bavier did not get along. According to Griffith, Bavier was “too sensitive” and she resented her role as Aunt Bee. In 1972, he and Howard Morris (who played Ernest T. Bass) paid her a visit at her home in North Carolina, but she turned them away once they arrived. It wasn’t until Bavier was diagnosed as terminally ill that she wrote Griffith a letter saying that she wished they could’ve gotten along better.
Originally Only Five Seasons
Originally Griffith and Knots signed five-year contracts for The Andy Griffith Show, so during the fifth season, Knotts began to look for work elsewhere, eventually signing a five-year contract with Universal Pictures. When Griffith told Knotts that he intended to extend the series another three years, Knotts was unable to get out of his Universal contract, so he was forced to leave the show.
If you’ve ever wondered why they gave Aneta Corsaut’s character, Helen Crump, such a terrible name, it’s because originally she was only going to be in one episode. However, when the producers saw how well she and Griffith got along on screen, they decided to make her a regular cast member.
A Family Affair
As it turns out, Ron Howard’s real-life brother, Clint Howard, appeared in several episodes as the peanut butter-and-jelly-loving cowboy, Leon. And how adorable is he?
Originally Ellie Walker (played by Elinor Donahue) was the pick for playing Andy’s on-screen love interest. She remained on the show for one season and then asked to be let go from her three-year contract because she felt that she had no chemistry with Griffith. Conversely, Griffith and Aneta Corsaut (Helen Crump) had no issue being a convincing couple on screen (or off screen, for that matter).
'Hello, Mr. Schwamp'
Mr. Schwamp was a character who would occasionally appear on The Andy Griffith Show. He never had any lines or much presence on the show at all, but was typically found sitting on a park bench or in a crowd and would be greeted by Andy or Barney with, “Hello, Mr. Schwamp.” The character of Mr. Schwamp was played by Frank E. Myers, the show’s production manager.
An Adorable Bromance
Barney occasionally refers to Andy as “Ange” on the show, which is pretty adorable when you think about the fact that that was Knotts’ real-life nickname for Griffith. A true bromance indeed!
No Live Audience
Andy Griffith wanted to keep the actors focused on acting, and to make Mayberry feel like an authentic town. To do this, they filmed the entire show on-location, not on a sound stage like most other comedy shows, and they added a laugh track in post-production, instead of having a live audience.
Floyd the Barber
In real life, Howard McNear, who played Floyd the barber, suffered a stroke and afterward had difficulty standing. Producers gave him a stool that made it look like he was standing in his scenes, when he was really sitting or leaning against something.
Barney Fife Can Never be Replaced
Believe it or not, the show’s producers tried to replace Barney Fife with another character named Warren Ferguson (which doesn’t have nearly the same ring to it, does it?). Predictably, viewers were not convinced that Barney could ever be replaced, and Warren Ferguson was written out of the show completely after just 11 episodes. Apparently the producers wanted him out of there as quickly as possible, because they didn’t even given viewers an explanation on the show as to why he left!
In four memorable episodes of a the series, Andy had a love interest named Peggy “Peg” McMillan portrayed y actress Joanna Moore. During the same period, Moore was married to actor Ryan O’Neal. The couple had two children together, including daughter Tatum, who still holds the record as the goings comeptitive Oscar winner in history.
Andy's Ever-Changing Address
Over the course of the series, Andy Taylor’s address was given numerous times, and every time was different. At various times, the address was given as 24 Elm Street, 332 Maple Road, and “14 Maple” among others.
The Myth of the Hubacher Brothers
Early on in the show’s run, there was a running gag revolving around letters Andy and Barney would receive from the Hubacher Brothers. According to the series, Andy and Barney had sent the brothers to jail, but instead of holding any kind of grudge, the Hubachers send letters regaling the duo with tales from prison.
Rance Howard Changes TV History
According to an interview with Ron Howard, the character of Opie was originally written as a “typical, snarky TV kid.” However, Howard’s father Rance (pictured above) approached producers and asked if his son’s character could be written as more respectful of his father. Griffith liked the idea so much that not only was the whole Opie character was changed, but Griffith also based some of his acting mannerisms on how Rance acted around Ron.
Barney Fife's True Identity
During several episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, one of “The Fun Girls” – (Skippy) – continually calls him Barney Fife ‘Bernie’ and every time she does he corrects her with “It’s Barney.” However at some point in the series, Fife’s true first name is revealed to be Bernard, which of course is the long form of Bernie.
Andy of Mayberry
During the early years of television reruns and syndication, successful series would often go by a different name for reruns, so viewers and programmers would know the difference between old and new episodes. For several years, The Andy Griffith Show went by Andy of Mayberry during rebroadcasts.
In another of the show’s long-running gags, anytime Barney Fife’s name was mentioned in the newspaper, it was constantly misspelled. Some mistakes include “Fike,” “Fice”, and “Fite”
Jerry Van Dyke's Regret
When Don Knotts left the series, comedian Jerry Van Dyke guest-starred in several episodes as a carnival musician who seemed like he was being primed to take Fife’s place in the cast. In fact, Van Dyke was offered a full-time job on the series. However, Van Dyke turned down the opportunity in favor of starring in the series My Mother the Car. Considering that the series lasted one year while the Griffith show went on for approximately another decade, it’s not shocking that Van Dyke regretted the decision.
While Goober than Gomer
While the character of Gomer, as played by Jim Nabors, was much more famous amongst audiences, his cousin Goober (as played by George Lindsey) appeared far more often in the series.
Everyman Allan Melvin
Before he won a starring role on Gomer Pyle, USMC, Allan Melvin was a recognizable face around Mayberry. In fact, Melvin played a whopping eight different characters across different episodes of the series.
Ron Howard Couldn't Even Throw Rock into the Lake
Ron Howard was walking along Griffith Lake in the opening theme song. He picks up a rock and appears to throw it into the lake. In reality, however, that did not really happen. The director asked someone else to throw the rock into the lake because he kept missing it.
Griffith Had Other Work Besides the Show
While he was playing the lead role of Andy Taylor in the sitcom The Andy Griffith Show, he was also playing the lead role of Ben Matlock in the legal drama Matlock. This is a mystery legal drama television series created by Dean Hargrove. In 1987, he received a People’s Choice Award for his work as Matlock.
Howard McNear Had a Stroke While on the Show
After the first season, Howard Mcnear, who played Floyd the Barber on the show, suffered a crippling stroke. As a result, he has limited motor function on his left side. But, because he was one of the show’s most cherished cast members, the producers and writers refused to let him go. Instead, they adapted to his physical needs and had him sit for the majority of the show.
The Voice Behind the "The Masked Singer"
Howard Morris played three roles in “Barney’s Bloodhound”! Naturally, he played Ernest T. Bass. Andy and Barney are listening to the radio when they hear a broadcast from Mt. Pilot. Yes, there was a Masked Singer on The Andy Griffith Show long before it became a modern reality show phenomenon.
Joanna Moore Was the First Woman Who Wore Pants on the Show
Joanna Moore played Peggy, Andy Taylor’s girlfriend, for four episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show,” and she was definitely a record breaker in the show because she was the only one who wore regular pants while everyone else wore dresses and skirts. She attracted a large number of fans by deviating from the norm.
The Mystery Actor in Mayberry
Mr. Schwump, Mayberry’s silent citizen, appears in 26 episodes of the show, as well as a Mayberry R.F.D. and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. or two. He first appeared in season four’s “My Fair Ernest T. Bass,” and he continues to appear in scenes such as dances, restaurants, and kicking back on the bench outside the courthouse.
Denver Pyle was Real-Life Jed Clampett
Briscoe Darling is best known as “The Andy Griffith Show’s” musical mountain man, but when he wasn’t on set, he wore a completely different hat: that of an oil speculator. Yes! Denver Pyle, a Colorado native, was a real-life Jed Clampett. The story of the “Dukes of Hazzard” star’s oil success, on the other hand, unfolded in reverse. Before getting involved with crude, Pyle had made a name for himself on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Rockne Tarkington Was the First Black With a Speaking Role
The show featured some black town residents in the background from time to time, but none of them ever spoke. However, in season seven of Opie’s Piano Lesson, for the first time, African American Rockne Tarkington had a speaking role in the show. He was the first black actor to have a dialogue on a sitcom.
The Creator of Saved by the Bell Wrote Some Episodes For the Show
Some of “The Andy Griffith Show’s” funniest Barney episodes were written by television writer Sam Bobrick, the creator of Saved by the Bell. He collaborated with other writers on the show to create storylines for the classic comedy set in the small town of Mayberry. Bobrick’s script for “Barney and Thelma Lou, Phfftt” demonstrated his talent for romantic comedies.
Andy Griffith Was Never Comfortable With Onscreen Romance
Throughout the series, Andy had several love interests, but Ellie Walker was his first. She played a pharmacist in 12 episodes of the show. In the show, she was supposed to be Sheriff Andy Taylor’s love interest, but she later decided to cancel her three-year contract after only one season. It was sadly because she never felt genuine chemistry with Andy Griffith. Griffith later admitted that he was to blame because he struggled to show affection on-screen, which made the relationship less convincing.
Andy Taylor and Helen Crump Relationship
The original plan was for Aneta Corsaut, who played Helen Crump on the show, to play a short-term one-off character. They decided to keep her because she and Andy have such good chemistry. They’ve also had a real-life relationship, despite Andy’s marriage to his first wife, Barbara, at the time.
Caught In The Act
A crew member disguised as a waiter went to deliver dinner to Andy’s Hollywood hotel room during one of the cast’s many pranks, but he caught Andy and Aneta in a compromising position. Yikes! Everyone knew what was going on because of the prank. It appears that The Andy Griffith Show launched yet another notable secret relationship in Hollywood in the 1960s, which was not uncommon at the time.
What About Opie's Name?
The name “Opie” has a musical history-based connection. A well-known band leader in the 1930s and 1940s was Opie Cates. Sheldon Leonard, the show’s producer, and Andy Griffith were both huge fans of Cates’ music, so they chose to pay tribute to him. Because of his work on Happy Days, Ron Howard is widely recognized for his roles as Richie Cunningham and Opie Taylor.
Why Helen Crump Has An Ugly Name
Helen Crump was given a terrible name when she appeared on the show because it was intended to be a one-time appearance with no long-term implications. But Aneta ended up giving a fantastic performance and developing a friendship with Andy Griffith. She later became a regular on the hit TV show. They claimed that if they had known she would work for a long time, they could have given her a good name.
A Real-Life Nickname Was Used On The Show
When talking with Andy, Barney always says “Ange.” He made the nickname by shortening “Andy” and “Griffith” to “Ange,” and he actually gave it to Andy in real life, and he still calls him by that nickname. The nickname stuck, and he decided to use it frequently while filming. It was a first for actors to get away with such real-life crossovers on TV shows.
The Sleepless Operator in Mayberry
Sarah, the show’s telephone operator, whose last name was never revealed, was assumed to be a robot because she worked around the clock. She was never seen on camera, but her voice was still recognizably hers at all times. She frequently listens in on phone calls and chats while making calls.
Frozen In Time
If you watch the show, you’ll notice that Floyd’s barbershop is frozen in time. Floyd’s wall calendar is set to February until the end of the show. We’re not sure if the directors and producers did this on purpose. It’s almost as if they knew the show would go down in history as a timeless classic.
Barbara As The Surprise Guest on the Show
Andy Griffith rose to stardom after marrying Barbara Bray Edwards, but he refused to allow his talented wife to work in show business back then. Barbara, on the other hand, made a few cameo appearances in season four of the show, including both “The Song Festers” and “Opie Loves Helen” episodes.
The Funniest Pickle Episode
The episode “The Pickle Story” was voted the most popular of the entire series. Aunt Bee was a good cook, but her pickles never seemed to be delicious. Because they never dared to tell her they tasted bad, Barney and Andy are forced to eat and dispose of as many jars as possible. Don Knotts stated that filming that episode was a lot of fun and that it made everyone laugh.