Few television comedies are more synonymous with the 1960s than The Andy Griffith Show. A spin-off of The Danny Thomas Show, it aired on CBS from October 3, 1960 until April 1, 1968, bringing to life the color characters and comedic situations of a fictional town called Mayberry. The 249 episodes are still seen my millions. But here are nine things you probably didn’t know about the TV classic.
1. Off-air feud: Andy Griffith owned 50 percent of the show and reaped a lion’s share of the profits. Don Knotts, however, was a salaried employee and quit the show after five seasons when he was denied an ownership stake.
2. Secret behind the theme song: The instrumental song, The Fishin’ Hole, was written in 15 minutes by Earle Hagen. Griffith recorded a vocal version – with lyrics by Everett Sloane – but it was never used. Instead, Hagen provided the new classic whistling.
3. Bring your spouse to work day: Look closely – Griffith’s real life wife, Barbara Bray Edwards, made several appearances in the background of the show.
4. A real town inspired Mayberry: Griffith’s hometown, Mount Airy, North Carolina, was the inspiration for Mayberry. The community of 10,000 residents is home to the Andy Griffith Museum and the annual “Mayberry Days” celebration, which attracted nearly 50,000 visitors for the show’s 50th anniversary in 2010.
5. How the characters got their names: The characters of Andy Taylor, Floyd Lawson, Ellie Walker, and Helen Crump all got their names from towns near Mount Airy, North Carolina: Taylorsville, Lawsonville, Walkertown, and Crumpler.
6. Gone with the Wind connection: Despite its authentic small town feel, the show was actually filmed at Desilu Studios in Culver City, California – on the same soundstage as Gone with the Wind. The lake, used in exterior scenes, is located on Franklin Canyon Drive in Beverly Hills.
7. Ron’s early beginnings: Ron Howard, then known as Ronnie, was only six years old when the show started and could barely read. His father, Rance Howard, and other cast members would have to read him lines to memorize.
8. So good you could watch it twice: During its peak of popularity, CBS ran reruns of the show during the day, renaming them Andy of Mayberry to avoid confusion with the prime time episodes. When the show concluded its run, all episodes were changed back to The Andy Griffith Show.
9. The only show to go out on top: Amazingly, The Andy Griffith Show was #1 in the national ratings only one year – its last year. This makes The Andy Griffith Show the only show in American television history to go out after its only year atop the ratings.
There has never been a more wholesome television program than The Andy Griffith Show. In this year of a national presidential race, increased terrorist threats at home and abroad, and trouble everywhere you look, true happiness does not depend on which political party you support or how much money you have in the bank. If you want a few seconds of pure joy, it all comes down to one simple question . . .
Can you whistle?