Do you recognize the Andy Griffith Show character modeling these fashionable 1940s jackets?
Before he became Mayberry's most mysterious lineman, Karl Swenson had one of the prettiest faces in radio.
Read to Me
In the third season premiere episode of The Andy Griffith Show, Opie describes a man he meets in the Mayberry woods. Andy thinks the fellow sounds like an imaginary friend.
"Mr. McBeeVee," as Opie calls him, makes a jingle when he walks across the tops of the trees, has a dozen extra hands attached to his belt and shoots smoke out of his ears.
For a while, Andy assumes that Mr. McBeeVee is a figment of Opie's imagination like Blackie, the imaginary horse Opie invents earlier in the episode. Later, Andy actually meets Mr. McBeeVee, and sees for himself that even imaginative Opie couldn’t make up a character like that.
For the part of Mr. McBeeVee, The Andy Griffith Show cast Karl Swenson. Classic TV fans likely recognize him best as Lars Hanson, the town elder on Little House on the Prairie.
Swenson appeared as Hanson more than a decade after he appeared in Mayberry. But before he came to Mayberry, Swenson wasn't sporting a silver hard hat atop his head, but rather the latest fashions, rising up as one of radio's most popular stars — and even being invited to model because he also happened to have a pretty face.
In a 1946 edition of The Waterbury Record, Swenson models four stylish jackets in advertisements, with captions that proved he was an early influencer.
"Karl Swenson, who plays the title role in NBC's Lorenzo Jones, wears a white all wool flannel shirt for those in-between hours in a man's life,” one caption read.
"Karl Swenson, who plays the title role on NBC's Lorenzo Jones, likes the ease of motion the full cut sleeves and snug knitted waistband gives him," says another caption, under a garment called "Classic Jacket."
He was even so cool that McGregor Sportswear chose him to debut a new type of garment the company called a "shacket" because "it can be worn either as a jacket … or buttoned and tucked in the trousers as a shirt."
So maybe the "shacket" never took off… but at least Swenson's career did.
Swenson was born in Brooklyn and was studying to become a doctor when he got bit by the radio bug. He got cast as "Lorenzo Jones," a mechanic who liked to tinker and invent things in his garage. The story goes that Swenson was a lot like Lorenzo, marrying and moving his family to Virginia, where he kept a workshop in his basement where he liked to come up with new household gadgets to save his wife time around the home.
So you should know that Mr. McBeeVee, with his "12 extra hands" (according to Opie), was very handy, indeed!
Through his career, he became even more prolific as a TV actor, just as he had been on radio, easily moving to the small screen through Westerns like Bonanza and, of course, The Andy Griffith Show.
In the 1970s, he joined the cast of Little House on the Prairie. He passed away in 1978 shortly after he filmed the death scene for his Little House character — within the same month. He left behind his wife who agreed to wed and took his hand way back when he was just a pretty face on the radio, modeling daring new fashions like the "shacket."