A rare look at Andy's family life when The Andy Griffith Show premiered
"I'm the best old man in the world," Andy boasted in 1960.
When The Andy Griffith Show premiered, Andy Griffith became TV's biggest star at a moment when there was a sincere shortage of leading men.
Not only did he step into the spotlight at a time when he was guaranteed to make maximum impact with his homespun sitcom, but he also had that kind of indescribable magnetism and star power that even the most handsome actors around were just lacking — and studios were seeking.
But while the world was getting to know Sheriff Andy Taylor as a grinning dad to Opie, Griffith had a quiet, happy life learning to be a dad to two kids who he claims he let "crawl all over him."
"Am I funny at home? Well, my kids think I'm sensational," Griffith told The Gettysburg Times in 1960.
That year, Griffith's son Sam was two years old, and his daughter Dixie was 10 months old. For Andy, his own kids were his easiest audience. He joked that their feedback didn't amount to much when it came to helping him with his growing fame.
"Í reckon they're a little too young and a little too prejudiced to take their words as gospel," Griffith joked. "Sam figures if I let him crawl all over me, I'm the best old man in the world. And if I jiggle Dixie on my knee, well she laughs, too. Can't prove a thing by them."
On the show, Griffith was also getting used to working with the child star he made his costar, Ronny Howard. Griffith was just as attentive to helping Ronny get laughs as he was to cracking up his own kids, letting that nurturing dad spirit bleed into behind the scenes.
"These little kids can't read, y'see," Griffith said. "And their folks read them the lines. I just think it's marvelous that they remember as well as they do. I know I couldn't, when I was their age. So I help 'em along a bit. Sorta move my lips when the camera isn't on me, to give 'em a cue. It saves time in retakes."
When the show premiered, Griffith was pleased by the cast and crew's professionalism that allowed him to mirror the quiet life he liked at home with how things unfolded onset.
"It's a happy company we've got," Griffith said. "No one ever yells at anyone. I can't stand that. Loud voices just irritate me. You'll never get anything out of me by yelling. Or pushing. We just talk things over quiet-like and get a lot more done."
It might be easy to imagine the early days of The Andy Griffith Show as a giant party, the way Griffith's sitcom debuted to popular acclaim right away, and from all those stories we've heard of the impromptu bluegrass picking and dancing behind the scenes.
However, like many young parents juggling two kids, Griffith said during this first year of his classic sitcom, he and his wife usually crashed fairly early at the end of the day. And like many of us, their special alone-time was when they got a chance to watch TV.
"I'm in bed and asleep by 10 or 10:30 at the latest," Griffith said. "And on weekends, well if Barbara, my wife, and I are up until midnight, talking or watching TV — it's a big thing!"