Andy Griffith snuck a nod to his musical hero into an episode of The Andy Griffith Show
A jazz legend is hidden in "Sheriff Barney."
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Andy Griffith was a 15-year-old high schooler when he went to see Birth of the Blues at his local movie theater in 1941. The Bing Crosby film depicts a Hollywood version of the early jazz scene in New Orleans. Crosby's character, Jeff, leads a "hot" band that becomes the toast of Bourbon Street.
The musical had one major link to early jazz to boost its credibility — Jack Teagarden. Dubbed the "Father of Jazz Trombone," the Texas-born Teagarden was largely self-taught. He went on to play with legends like Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong. But Birth of the Blues was a showcase for the trombonist. The soundtrack featured Bing singing with the Jack Teagarden Orchestra. Teagarden's character in the flick, "Pepper," truly swings as he blows his brass.
Certainly, young Andy Griffith was impressed. He left the dark theater that day with an urge to play the trombone. Griffith found a silver trombone in the Spiegel catalog listed for $33. Determined to have it, Griffith swept floors at Mount Airy High School for half a year to say up the money. Then, the North Carolina kid found a local minister, Ed Mickey, in his hometown Mt. Airy to teach him the instrument.
Rev. Mickey did not know how to play the trombone. But must have been skilled as a teacher. Griffith's skills developed quickly enough that he earned a music scholarship to the University of North Carolina.
We all know that Griffith eschewed a career in music for television fame, though he did often showcase his skills on The Andy Griffith Show, albeit largely on the acoustic guitar. Surprisingly, in "The Mayberry Band," it is Floyd the Barber who plays the trombone, not Andy, who plays the tuba.
But play close attention to the second-season episode "Sheriff Barney" and you will find a nod to Andy's musical roots. In the closing credits, the name "Jack Teagardin" appears. (Oops! It was misspelled, as you can see above!)
Here's the weird part — Jack Teagarden does not seem to appear in the episode at all. The Mayberry Historical Society supposes that "what happened was that the scene he appeared in was deleted and his name was not removed from the credits." The Internet Movie Database lists Teagarden as "Greendale Councilman." If you recall the plot, Barney is offered the job of sheriff in the nearby town of Greendale. Dabbs Greer shows up in Andy's office as "Greendale Councilman Dobbs," along with Greendale's Mayor Purdy (Ralph Dumke). But Teagarden is nowhere to be seen?
Teagarden would die about two years after this episode aired. Earle Hagan, the composer behind the theme song to "The Andy Griffith Show," certainly would have approved of Teagarden's tie to Mayberry. Hagen once played in bands with Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman.
His instrument? You guessed it — the trombone.