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July 3, 2012

Andy Griffith, folksy TV sheriff and comedian, dies at 86

(Continued)

"I loved it," Griffith recalled in a 1996 National Public Radio interview. "I had two songs, two solos. I got good reviews. It said I had good timing and so I played the comedy leads in all the Gilbert and Sullivans they did while I was there."

After graduating in 1949, Griffith taught music at a high school in Goldsboro, N.C. But he and his first wife, Barbara, a singer and musician who had been a member of the university drama group, continued acting in North Carolina's famous annual outdoor drama, "The Lost Colony," on Roanoke Island.

After receiving a negative criticism about his singing at one audition, Griffith abandoned his dream of a singing career. Not wanting to teach anymore, he wrote a few jokes and did his first monologue, which he delivered in a thick Southern accent.

"I told the story of the play 'Hamlet' at the Shrine Club," he later recalled in a National Public Radio interview. "I got big laughs and I never taught again."

Plying the "Rotary Club circuit" as an entertainer with his wife, Griffith began doing humorous monologues on "Romeo and Juliet," the opera "Carmen" and the ballet "Swan Lake."

But he earned some of his biggest laughs with his football spoof in which a country preacher sees his first football game but has no idea what he's watching:

"And I think that it's some kind of a contest where they see which bunch full of them men can take that pumpkin and run from one end of that cow pasture to the other without either getting knocked down or stepping in something."

A local record company recorded Griffith's "What It Was, Was Football" and it began receiving so much radio air play that Capitol Records' New York promotion man Richard O. Linke flew to North Carolina to buy the master recording and sign Griffith to a personal-management contract.

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