6 little snippets you never knew about Howard McNear of The Andy Griffith Show
Before he was a barber, he was an action hero.
Was there a more welcoming place in Mayberry than Floyd's Barbershop? It was the hangout downtown, where you were sitting in a chair under an apron or parked on the bench outside.
Of course, the friendly presence of Floyd Lawson himself was part of the appeal. From 1961–67, Howard McNear brought the character to life, as warm and comforting as a hot towel. It would be his last major role.
Let's look back at the career of this beloved TV icon.
1. He was a major radio star.
He may be best known as a small-town barber, but McNear got his start as an action hero. That was the magic of radio. First honing his acting chops on stage in Southern California, McNear first found fame with a role on the radio program Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police, a sort of Jonny Quest precursor of the 1930s. It featured the wonderfully dated catchphrase "Suffering wangdoodles!" McNear voiced Clint, an ace and uncle to Speed Gibson. Gale Gordon, who would later star in the sitcoms Our Miss Brooks and The Lucy Show, played an evil villain named the Octopus.
2. He originated the role of Doc on 'Gunsmoke'.
Speed Gibson was a mere stepping stone for McNear on the radio. After serving in the Army Air Forces in World War II, the actor returned to the radio airwaves with a key role on Gunsmoke. He originated the role of Doc Charles Adams, seen here next to William Conrad's Marshal Matt Dillon. Milburn Stone would play Doc on the television show. In fact, all of the radio cast was replaced, including Parley Baer's Chester. But more on Parley in a bit…
Image: The Everett Collection
3. He played a barber on 'Beaver'… named Andy!
Radio made him a Wild West medic, but television solidified his status as a hairstylist. That being said, McNear did not snip his first scissors in Mayberry. In 1958, two years before he joined The Andy Griffith Show (remember, McNear was the second actor to play Floyd the Barber, after Walter Baldwin), McNear played a barber on Leave It to Beaver. In the episode "The Shave," Wally takes a step into manhood and starts shaving. McNear's character is there to help him. The craziest part? McNear's character is named Andy!
4. He had a stroke while working on 'Andy'.
After the first season of The Andy Griffith Show, McNear suffered a debilitating stroke which severely limited the motor function on the left side of his body. The cast of the sitcom loved him too much to let him go. The producers and writers catered the show to his physical needs, having Floyd the Barber sit for most of the time. His left hand was often seen holding a paper or whatnot. According to a 1976 newspaper column, when he had to "stand," "it was with the aid of a special jig the men in the crew built for him."
5. The Mayor of Mayberry delivered his eulogy.
Baer, seen here as Chester in a promotional photo for the Gunsmoke radio program, reunited with his former colleague McNear in Mayberry. While McNear was the second barber on The Andy Griffith Show, Baer became the second mayor. Mayor Stoner turned up in season three, offering a more uptight form of governing. When McNear passed in 1969, it was his old friend Baer who delivered the eulogy at the funeral.
6. Nirvana wrote a song named after his character.
Kurt Cobain turned his personal pain into cathartic rock songs. Which is why it's pretty surprising to find a song — albeit one rather tongue-in-cheek — about The Andy Griffith Show on Nirvana's sludgy debut, Bleach. Over a knuckle-dragging riff, "Floyd the Barber" roll-calls many Mayberry citizens in its twisted lyrics. "Barney ties me to the chair," Cobain rasps, "Opie, Aunt Bee, I presume… I die smothered in Andy's clutch." Rest assured, that never happened on the sitcom.
7. SEE MORE: 5 things you never knew about Betty Lynn of The Andy Griffith Show
From her teenage war service to retirement in the real Mayberry. READ MORE