James Best lied about his guitar skills to get cast on The Andy Griffith Show

"The Guitar Player" couldn’t play a lick!

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Andy Griffith loved to pick a guitar every chance he got on The Andy Griffith Show.

Out of everybody in Mayberry, though — including all the Darlings — it was Jim Lindsey whose guitar playing got the TV sheriff grinning the most. Best picker in the county!

"The Guitar Player" was played by character actor James Best, and he appeared in two first-season episodes of The Andy Griffith Show as the groovy Jim Lindsey.

To get the role, however, Best wasn't exactly forthright during his casting call.

The story goes that The Andy Griffith Show producers called Best to invite him as a guest star and asked, "Can you play guitar?" He shot back, “Are you kidding? I have two guitars!"

The Andy Griffith Show took Best at his word, and when he got on set, he immediately realized he was out of his depth. They played him the music, and all he could do was 'fess up.

"I can't play guitar," he admitted.

They were not happy, insisting he'd lied, but Best had a coy response that he remembered offering: "No, I didn't lie. I said, 'I have two guitars.'"

It all worked out with a little TV studio magic. The guitar licks you hear in "The Guitar Player" and "The Guitar Player Returns" are in reality played by a guitarist from one of the coolest session bands in history.

Barney Kessel was a guitarist for the Wrecking Crew, the legendary ensemble that backed bands like the Beach Boys and the Monkees on studio recordings. When you listen to Sonny & Cher sing "The Beat Goes On," it's Kessel on guitar.

He also recorded dozens of jazz albums, including many as a member of the Oscar Peterson Trio. Between 1947 to 1960, polls in both Esquire and Playboy deemed him America's No. 1 guitarist. Perry Mason gave him a chance to shine onscreen himself — he furiously works his frets as "Barney" in the episode "The Case of the Missing Melody." He also composed the conducted the music heard in that mystery.

Quietly behind the scenes, together Kessel and Best portrayed Mayberry's best guitar player, but some of The Andy Griffith Show fans have long noticed something was a little off about watching the performance at the beginning of "The Guitar Player Returns."

In the opening scene, Best strums an acoustic guitar. However, if you listen to the tune, it's clearly an electric guitar that Kessel's playing. Really attentive listeners have noted there's also a ghost of a bass guitar you can hear.

The electric acoustic in the early scene from ''The Guitar Player Returns''

Later in the episode, Best does break out an electric guitar, so perhaps we'll just call this tiny goof in the opening scene a little bit of foreshadowing?

Although Best — who is probably best known as a sheriff himself, Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard — was, let's say, minorly deceptive during his casting, there were no hard feelings between him and Andy. The actors remained friends for the rest of their lives. In an interview, Best praised Andy's guitar playing on the Mayberry fan podcast Two Chairs No Waiting.

“I really had fun because Andy plays a guitar and his makeup man Lee Greenway played banjo and guitar, so they had a hard time getting us on the set, because we'd be back there picking on the guitar a little bit and singing," Best said. "I really enjoyed doing that show because they had a very talented cast."

He also shared how the show became special to everyone in his own family. "Of course, The Andy Griffith Show has always been one of my favorites, and I still watch it," Best said. "And my grandchildren watch it. They must be the third or fourth generation." Best passed away in 2015; Kessel, in 2004.

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JohnnyWalker 4 months ago
They make guitars that are acoustic but sound electric. Not sure if it's a new thing or not...but I thought that was what he was playing in "Guitar Player Part 2" when he enters courthouse when he first arrives in Mayberry.
Chris518 16 months ago
I thought James Best did a great job in both of these episodes. You can immediately recognize the electric guitar 🎸 sounds. It is fun episodes to watch 😁. I always enjoy watching the Andy Griffith show 🥰
DeborahRoberts 23 months ago
Yeah, it didn't really matter that Best wasn't a great guitarist since not even Stevie Ray could get those sounds from an acoustic guitar. But the Jim Lindsey episodes were two of my favorites. Just saw Best last night in a bit part in "The Caine Mutiny." He performed in so many classic television series and films. RIP
Randall 39 months ago
Let's not forget the legendary hi tech equipment the Mosquitos had on Gilligan's Island...never knew they already had wireless transmitters and receivers available for instruments in the mid 60's...even my Edmund Scientific catalog had none for sale...however you could buy almost everything to make a low power laser by the end of the decade...l almost did !
RedSamRackham 40 months ago
B-b-b-but he faked it well with dubbed in instrumental! ☺
dingopossum 43 months ago
James Best was a gifted actor..love him in the westerns.
STTOS 46 months ago
Always liked James Best. It's amazing how often he pops up in an old 60's Western.
RickSon 47 months ago
How about som Ozzie and Harriet :) my name is Rick Son my brother is Dave Son we used to cover the credits with tape so it showed Rick and Dave Son..
RickSon 47 months ago
Always knew it wasn't James Best just becuase the camera looked away from him to the hands pickin,just a good ole cinema trick like when country stars can't hit the next octave up in the song then they will zoom in on the face away from the guitar. I call them basic country chord,but i can't play up the neck either!
jholton30062 47 months ago
When I saw Herb Ellis in the credits, I automatically thought of Herb Ellis the guitar player and assumed that he provided the actual guitar playing (I've played guitar most of my life and knew that James Best was faking it). I didn't realize that this was a different Herb Ellis that probably couldn't play a lick, either. I'm quite familiar with Barney Kessel and had a feeling he was the man behind the strings. Incidentally, Barney and Herb Ellis the guitar player, along with Charlie Byrd, recorded at least one album as "The Great Guitars."
Wiseguy jholton30062 47 months ago
Herb Ellis was the original Off. Frank Smith on the original Dragnet. Later Ben Alexander would take over the role. Ellis popped up on the 1960s Dragnet as well.
Tony jholton30062 43 months ago
I've never played the guitar and I knew he was faking it.
GloryGrace 47 months ago
You can't blame him.....I think most everyone wanted to be on the show (if they didn't they where crazy). He probably saw it as his only chance and jumped at it!
trybriguy 47 months ago
Anyone who plays guitar knows who can play and who can't. When someone comes out and grabs an acoustic guitar and it's an electric playing, and tries to play it , most all know it's fake. Also, timing and finger placement you just can't fake. Jim was a very talented actor, but, no way could he play guitar or fake it for that matter!
Toddmick 47 months ago
I always wondered if he really played. I think it's a little strange to bring him back when he couldn't play.
ncadams27 47 months ago
I’d rather have a good actor mimic a musician (where the music is enhanced anyway, like on a record) than hire a musician who is a bad actor.
JamesBest 47 months ago
Other than being Roscoe, these were some of my favorite episodes.
ljpalumbo 47 months ago
Your wrong Chucklehead. Earle Hagen "wrote the theme song in 15 minutes".
RobertCload 47 months ago
He did a horrible job of faking his playing. I enjoy the storyline of both episodes but have an issue with the technical aspects.
Nadya92129 47 months ago
He did not seem like an authentic male, IMHO.
WordsmithWorks 47 months ago
They must not have been too upset with him since they asked him back for another episode. Also check out Best's three Twilight Zone episodes.
x60hz11 WordsmithWorks 47 months ago
He sported a guitar in the TZs "The Grave" too!
JHP WordsmithWorks 47 months ago
BAR-NAY was able deputy too (haha)
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