Andy Griffith's manager cruised around in a Rolls-Royce with multiple carphones
Richard O. Linke discovered Andy over the radio late one night.
Richard O. Linke was working publicity at Capitol Records in 1953 when he came around a recording that would change his life. It was not some bleeding-edge rock 'n' roll bopper. It was not some lost Sinatra number. It was a hillbilly comedy routine.
A native of the New York City area, Linke was perhaps not the most likely candidate to swoon at the Southern charms of Andy Griffith. He was listening to the radio late one night when he picked up a signal coming from the South. The far-away station was playing "What It Was, Was Football." The P.R. man adored this spoken word performance. In the bit, Griffith played up his naive farmboy persona, describing a football game as a spectator who had never seen the befuddling sport.
Linke immediately flew to North Carolina to sign this young comic named Andy Griffith. He bought the rights to "What It Was, Was Football" for $10,000 and inked Griffith to a contract for $300 a week, The New York Times reported.
And what were Griffith's first impressions of Linke? "His teeth are too close together," the future television legend thought.
As Griffith's longtime manager, Richard O. Linke would have a hand in producing TV series featuring his workhorse, including, naturally, The Andy Griffith Show, as well as its spin-offs, not to mention Headmaster and Matlock.
On the business side, Linke would end up managing a stable of Mayberry talents. He backed the career of Jim Nabors. His other clients included Jerry Van Dyke and Ken Berry — both of whom appeared on The Andy Griffith Show, of course.
Linke, an Ohio University alum, saw his talent as a product. Instant decaf coffee, specifically.
"I'm in every aspect of my clients' careers. It's like a marriage," Linke told Television Magazine in August 1967. "I counsel and advise and I market them just like General Foods markets Sanka off a shelf."
In that profile, we learned another fun fact about this colorful talent guru.
"Linke collects 15% of the income he brings his clients, enough to support a multitelephone Rolls-Royce from which he conducts most of his business," the article revealed.
Mind you, this was 1967, when carphones were not exactly common, unless your name was Peter Gunn, Amos Burke or Batman.
And to think, it all began with a late-night radio broadcast. What if there had been a storm interfering with the signal that night?