Andy Griffith on Jim Nabors' nightclub act

Apparently, the act was a real mystery to Griffith.

CBS Television Distribution

Part of the charm of Mayberry is the natural chemistry among its residents. The whole town seems realistically lived-in, and its characters seem like they've known each other for entire lifetimes. Of course, this is all a put-on. There is no real Mayberry (unless you count Mt. Airy, North Carolina), and the town's inhabitants are all actors. Nonetheless, the show succeeds because we believe these are real people with real backstories who have known each other for a long time.

On The Andy Griffith Show, Andy and Gomer are both fixtures of their hometown. Andy's the sheriff, and Gomer works at the filling station. You get the sense that they've known each other since before the first episode. Maybe they grew up together! The truth regarding the actors, though, is that they met at a nightclub.

While working as a film cutter for NBC, Jim Nabors also performed at nightclubs, most notably in Santa Monica's The Horn. A successful appearance led to Nabors being booked on Steve Allen's show. 

The next stop for Nabors was San Francisco's famous Purple Onion, a club notable for launching the careers of comics like Phyllis Diller and Mort Sahl. It was at the Purple Onion that Nabors caught Andy Griffith's eye.

"I didn't know what he was doing'," Griffith said of Nabors' routine. "But he was doin' it great."

Nabors' act wasn't as straightforward as others on the bill. While he was an incredibly gifted singer, Nabors entertained the crowd by mixing up each performance with some comedy bits as well. That breadth of performance let Griffith know that Nabors was someone to watch.

When Griffith asked Nabors to guest star in a few episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, it was clear that a new star was born. Nabors even got his spinoff, in Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C

While Nabors probably would've found his way onto television regardless, it is interesting to think of a timeline where Griffith just happened upon the Purple Onion on some other night. We might've seen Goober Pyle, U.S.M.C instead!

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