Andy and Rafe sang together on Broadway long before they knew each other in Mayberry
The two sang a duet in a 1950s Broadway musical. Take a listen.
Can you imagine Sheriff Andy Taylor and ol' Rafe Hollister together in the Big Apple? A couple of Mayberry boys in New York City? Shucks, it's hard to believe. But it sure happened, it did.
Rafe Hollister is one of the colorful characters from The Andy Griffith Show who made a lasting impression in just a few short appearances. Jack Prince portrayed the poor Mayberry moonshiner and farmer in three episodes between 1961–63. He wore overalls, but you likely remember him more for his voice than his wardrobe. In "Rafe Hollister Sings," the country bumpkin shows off his lovely singing voice, accompanied by Andy on guitar.
This was not the first time Jack Prince and Andy Griffith performed together. In fact, they were making music together before The Andy Griffith Show ever existed.
The late 1950s were a busy time for rising star Andy Griffith. After the unlikely success of his comedy monologue "What It Was, Was Football," a spoken-word piece that cracked the Top 10 on the pop charts, the North Carolina native found himself in high demand. Griffith earned accolades on Broadway for his work in the play No Time for Sergeants, which led to a role in the 1958 movie adaptation of the same name. He performed cowboy comedy skits with a newcomer named Elvis Presley. He shows his dramatic chops in the evils-of-fame parable A Face in the Crowd. Finally, at the close of the decade, Griffith returned to Broadway and landed the lead role in Destry Rides Again.
Get this — Andy played a sheriff who doesn't like to use a gun. Sound familiar? Sheriff Tom Destry had much in common with Sheriff Andy Taylor. That might even be where he honed the character of a pacifist, folksy lawman, as he made 472 performances in the role. It would be Griffith's only role in a Broadway musical.
When Destry arrives in the small town of Bottleneck, local folks are in disbelief that the sheriff doesn't carry a gun. Destry explains his anti-gun policy to a man named Wash in the song "Ballad of the Gun."
Yes, the character name Wash might bring to mind Dud Wash of Mayberry (who was played by Bob Denver at one point). But here's the real small-world connection to Mayberry — Wash was played by Jack Prince, a.k.a. Rafe Hollister!
Thankfully, the two recorded their performance for the Destry Rides Again - Original Cast Album, released in 1959. Take a listen.
Griffith earned a second Tony nomination for his work in Destry Rides Again. Variety honored him in the category of best performance by a male lead in a musical. His celebrity was growing, as documented by the special visitors he received backstage.
Ernest F. Hollings, governor of South Carolina, popped in following a performance.
Miss Tennessee, Mickey Wayland of Knoxville, was another guest from below the Mason-Dixon to visit Andy in New York.
In a way, it was a little preview of Mayberry in Manhattan. Destry Rides Again closed on June 18, 1960. The Andy Griffith Show premiered four months later.