Ever wonder what the ''T'' in Ernest T. Bass stands for?
The Mayberry hillbilly's name has surprising connections to Hitchcock and the TV movie Brian's Song.
Read to Me
"It's me, it's me, it's Ernest T!"
You can't read that line without hearing Howard Morris' iconic delivery on The Andy Griffith Show, and for years after appearing as the Mayberry hillbilly, Morris continued repeating the line to adoring fans at public appearances.
On The Andy Griffith Show, we never learned what the "T" in Ernest T. Bass stood for, but according to The Tennessean in 1989, writer Everett Greenbaum, who helped create the character, demystified the name origins.
Greenbaum said the "T" was a tribute to one of his favorite characters, Frank T. Whip, who appeared on Greenbaum's first hit show Mister Peepers.
Mister Peepers was an early-'50s sitcom that gave Tony Randall (The Odd Couple) his big breakout role. It was about a group of teachers and students, and the character Frank T. Whip was created to be the "new gym teacher" after the original gym teacher leaves.
The original gym teacher was played by Walter Matthau, but the subsequent gym teacher was played by Jack Warden in his first recurring TV role.
Warden is probably best known to TV audiences for playing another coach — he won an Emmy for his portrayal of George Halas in the moving, dramatic 1970s TV movie Brian's Song. But on Mister Peepers, his character was played purely for humor, just like Ernest T. Bass was.
Frank T. Whip was a pompous high school coach whose sole purpose was to be hilarious, and in this role, Warden delivered to the point that Greenbaum kept a little bit of the character like hidden treasure by planting Frank's middle initial into the name of Ernest T. Bass.
And that wasn't the only personal touch that Greenbaum added when naming Ernest T. Bass.
The "Bass" is a reference to someone whose career is iconic in a different way from the Mayberry hillbilly.
The story goes that Saul Bass — the Oscar-winning genius behind iconic Hollywood title sequences like the eerie animated slashes in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho — gave Greenbaum's brother a job when he needed it. Greenbaum was so grateful, he named a TV character after Bass. Thanks to animated performances by Howard Morris, that character became Ernest T. Bass as we knew and love him.
So next time you watch an episode where wild-eyed Ernest T. Bass pops out and adds mayhem, remember there's a little bit more Psycho in the character than you realized.