Most of us have probably read that Andy Griffith just died at age 86, and news stories have naturally focused on his memorable roles on The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock. But a lot of people might have forgotten that before he showed up in Mayberry, his career had already included huge record sales, Broadway stardom, and a couple of unforgettable movie appearances.
He was indeed from small-town North Carolina, but Andy Griffith wasn’t nearly the country bumpkin he might have seemed. Always musically inclined, he graduated from college with a music degree and even taught in high school for a while. Within a few years he’d decided to make the break for a show business career, but his first brush with stardom in 1953 wasn’t of a musical nature.
Griffith had developed a comedy routine that revolved around a country bumpkin describing his reactions to some of the things most of us take for granted. His performance of “What It Was, Was Football” (video below) was his best-known, but he had a whole series of routines that proved to be very popular. He not only sold a lot of records, but he also got regular shots on TV shows like those of Ed Sullivan and Steve Allen.
Broadway soon came calling. Griffith had appeared in a one-hour TV play about a hillbilly’s adventures in the armed services, and producers expanded it into what would become a star-making Broadway show, No Time For Sergeants. It would later be made into a very popular movie, but that wasn’t the star’s first film role. After showing his acting range in a couple of other stage roles, Griffith was given the lead in the 1957 movie, A Face In The Crowd. Although he was once again playing a country boy, the character’s evil side and ultimate downfall made for a memorable role, and proved that Griffith had star quality way before he became Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry.