Andy Griffith's ''What It Was, Was Football'' catapulted the actor to stardom

The story behind Andy's famous monologue.

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Early in his show business career, Andy Griffith was doing what he could to gain experience. He'd try to get gigs anywhere he could, just to get up in front of a crowd. He exhausted personal and professional connections in hopes that anyone anywhere could get him onto a stage. 

In the spring of 1952, after quitting a job at Goldsboro High School, Andy was traveling and performing when and where he could. In his haste, he'd booked a show to entertain a group for which he'd already performed. That earlier performance was still too recent to repeat anything he'd already done. It was a critical juncture; Andy couldn't let this crowd down for fear of ruining his burgeoning reputation. In Andy & Don, author Daniel de Visé compiles the details of what would become a crucial piece of Andy Griffith's history. 

"I didn't have but one show," Griffith recalled, lamenting his lack of preparation. While he traveled, though, he was able to piece together a brand new monologue that drew from his memories of football games with the Chapel Hill marching band (Griffith played the sousaphone). "I don't know where it come from, nor why, but that notion came to me in the car on the way to the second job."

The new sketch, as devised on the fly, described a country preacher happening upon his first football game. 

"And I looked down that, and I seen five or six convicts a-runnin' up and down and a-blowin' whistles... And I seen thirty-five or forty men come a-runnin' out one end of a great big outhouse down there... And, friends, I seen that evenin' the awfulest fight that I have ever seen in my life!" 

Andy Griffith's first repeat customers responded with delight to his new story. Further performance refined the hastily-written monologue until it was perfect. 

That same summer, Andy showcased the tale in a performance in front of a dinner gathering. Shortly thereafter, he was introduced to a man named Orville Campbell, who was keen to make a record of the monologue. Trouble followed; Campbell, in his attempts to set the story to tape, would bring a microphone and recorder to each of Andy's shows. However, because he was such a natural orator, Andy wasn't used to sharing the stage with a microphone and would freeze up in its presence each night. Five times the duo attempted to record the monologue but to no avail. Finally, a good performance was captured at a convention of the Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company in September 1953.

Two months later, Orville Campbell released the 45 rpm record on Colonial Records, a local record company imprint. The single was titled "What It Was, Was Football" and credited to "Deacon" Andy Griffith. It would become one of the biggest-selling comedy records in history and catapulted Andy Griffith to stardom. 

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Runeshaper 10 months ago
WOW! GREAT story! Thanks for sharing, MeTV! (-:
Bapa1 10 months ago
I had that routine on a CD. Pretty funny.
Coldnorth Bapa1 9 months ago
I haven’t heard that in years. I just remember it was funny with his southern accent
justjeff 10 months ago
...but what they left out was that the master was sold to Capitol Records, and with their major exposure and distribution turned a 1953 regional record (50,000 copies sold) into a national hit during 1954 (800,000 copies sold) and that helped paved the way for Andy Griffith's future successes...
justjeff 10 months ago
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FrankensteinLover 10 months ago
This was Legendary and so so funny. What a Clever way to put all that together
I liked the Abbott and Costello bit about baseball, Who’s on first was funny also. Have they ever had that show on MeTV?
Yessss the baseball skit was pure genius, and Svengoolie shows some of there movies on METV, but never the show itself.
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