Did you catch this subtle Don Knotts tribute in Jerry Van Dyke's only appearance on The Andy Griffith Show?

Aunt Bee can't believe it!

In Morgantown, West Virginia, there stands a statue of Barney Fife. It's a hometown tribute to Don Knotts, who grew up in Morgantown. Most of Knotts' fans know this fun fact when it comes to TV's favorite deputy, so it was an extra special moment in an episode of The Andy Griffith Show called "Banjo-Playing Deputy" when the cherished classic series took some time to add in a subtle reference to Knotts' birthplace.

"Banjo-Playing Deputy" was episode 32 of season five, and it was only the second episode that aired after Knotts had left the show to make his famous series of delightful family comedies on the big screen. It starred Jerry Van Dyke in the titular role, and he first shows up in the episode when Andy Taylor is watching him perform as a one-man-band in a harem show at a carnival. After Andy gets Jerry's show shut down, the sheriff soon learns the banjo player is basically broke, denied wages as soon as he was fired. 

Feeling responsible for Jerry's bad turn of luck, Andy invites the banjo player over for dinner. It's in this scene, following dinner with Andy, Opie and Aunt Bee, that the sheriff's young boy asks the visitor where he's from.

Jerry answers, "Morgantown," smiling big.

Aunt Bee reacts, "Morgantown! West Virginia?"

Jerry says, "I was born and raised there."

Aunt Bee says, "Mercy me! You know I lived there for five years?"

Then Aunt Bee searches her memory, repeating Jerry's last name "Miller." At last she squeals, "You're not Robie Miller's little boy?"

Jerry jokes, "Well, I used to be."

It's charming to watch Aunt Bee so overcome, gushing at how Jerry's got his father's good looks, but it makes the awkward Jerry a little uncomfortable, and he clears the dishes as an excuse to duck the conversation. But in this charm, there's an extra layer for fans in the know, who likely made the connection between Jerry and Barney when Aunt Bee later suggests that Andy give Jerry work around the courthouse. This, of course, culminates in Jerry stepping directly into Don Knotts' well-worn shoes as deputy.

Only Jerry manages to hilariously be even less up to the task than Barney, bungling things and getting in Andy's way. In the end, Jerry redeems himself by finding a thief who snatches Aunt Bee's purse, but his days of a being Andy's deputy remain confined to just this single episode.

Coming so soon after Knotts' bittersweet exit from the show, even a subtle nod to Andy's old pal surely sent home the message that Knotts was never far from anybody's mind when it came to Mayberry.

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Dennisjs 24 days ago
There were at least two instances on Matlock which referenced “Fearless Fife.”
Barney Fife often mispronounced words and on Matlock, one of the characters admitted to being a kleptomaniac. Matlock Andy Griffith) smiled and said “I used to know a fellow who pronounced it keptomenerack.
In another episode of Matlock, Don Knotts character,Les tries to demonstrate his knowledge of karate to Matlock with the same results as when Barney tried to demonstrate his judo skills to Andy
Dennisjs Dennisjs 24 days ago
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=RDBKEOlPrNGTo
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=RDBKEOlPrNGTo
cperrynaples Dennisjs 21 days ago
Yes, and Les' Karate and Barney's judo were exactly the same! MeTV even ran a comparison!
Brian 24 days ago
If JVD did become the next Barney, I have to wonder if the deputy's squad car would've been a Porter?
cperrynaples Brian 21 days ago
And yes it would have Ann Sothern's voice...LOL! Anybody know the model year of THAT car? I've known the whole theme for 54 years!
JohnDRipper 24 days ago
Jerry Would've been a good deputy. Jerry's character lacked self-confidence, but was physically fearless, the flip side of Barney. Jack Burns is talented, but Warren was unfunny as written; Also, the Color episodes always seem a little less funny. Mayberry in color looks more like a set and the clothes look more like costumes.
jorel JohnDRipper 24 days ago
Agreed. No one can replace Barney but based on this one episode Jerry would have been better than Warren. Emmitt was a good edition and provided much needed comedy but not until the last season. In the color episodes Andy was less of a straight man. He seemed to exhibit frustration by the characters actions around him which does not lend itself to comedy.
MrsPhilHarris 26 days ago
To me Jerry on Andy Griffith was basically the same character he played on DVD.
And Jack Burns' WARREN was his same taxi-cab passenger character he did with Avery Schreiber as the cab driver. ☺
"Huh? Yeah! Huh? Yeah! Huh! Yeah!" He always used that voice, even as a crash test dummy!
"To me Jerry on Andy Griffith was basically the same character he played on DVD."

Except that Jerry on TAGS didn't sleepwalk (but Warren did).
I don't remember that but a I barely remember the colored episodes.
Wait a minute, are you saying Andy wore blackface? I mean he did come from the South!! LOL...just kidding, I know you mean "color episodes"!
John 26 days ago
Yeah, Jerry, Andy and Don were Las Vegas buddies. They did a little stage show together there at one time, as did Andy and Don on thier own somewhat regularly as well. It was very similar to what was seen in the Andy Griffith Uptown TV special (that may not be the exact title but it's very close) which starred Andy, Don and Jim Nabors. It included some slightly reworked funny scenes from T.A.G.S. and some singing and dancing. Some excerpts were on YouTube but, unfortunately, I have yet to find the entire show available anywhere. For sale or otherwise. Shame.
cperrynaples John 26 days ago
I know what you're talking about and it might be a rights issue over the use of TAGS characters. New Andy Griffith Show is the same thing, even though he didn't have a name on that show, Don Knotts was DEFINITELY Barney!
Pacificsun 26 days ago
TAGS is a very gracious show. Meaning by that, how it so frequently finds touching, thoughtful nuances to share. This story is a fine example. Am glad TAGS is one of MeTV's core sitcoms during the weeknights! We need to be uplifted sometimes!
cperrynaples 26 days ago
Too bad Barney wasn't there, that was a perfect set up for an inside joke...LOL!! Bonus Question: What show did Jerry do next season instead of TAGS and what show did he reject that season? Hint: the second show is on MeTV and the first should be!
anthony cperrynaples 26 days ago
My Mother The Car and Gilligan.
cperrynaples anthony 26 days ago
Yes and yes!
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