Jim Nabors got booed his first time on a professional stage
Luckily, the rest of the crowd stood up for him.
If you were lucky enough to catch Jim Nabors on variety shows in the '60s and '70s, then you know how incredibly well-suited he was to live performance. The guy was a natural. But his road to the top wasn't a direct path, and he certainly wasn't an overnight sensation. What eventually became a success story started as a saga filled with trials and tribulations.
What began as a guitar-and-vocal act at Santa Monica open mics slowly built toward a more polished, professional routine. Eventually, Nabors made his way to San Francisco, where he was invited to perform at the famous Purple Onion nightclub for what would be his initial appearance as a professional. According to a 1963 interview with The Buffalo News, Nabors had most of the crowd on his side, but one spectator in particular made his displeasure known.
"I was singing along there minding my own business when some guy in the audience stands up and says 'Get off the stage, you big hick, and bring on the girls!'"
Now, granted, Nabors wasn't yet as famous as he would become. He'd not yet appeared on The Andy Griffith Show or even The Steve Allen Show. However, he was still a great performer. Deeper than that, though, he was a human person with emotions and didn't deserve to be treated that way.
"Well," Nabors continued. "I was so embarrassed all I could do was stand there and look ashamed of myself. For about a minute I just looked down at my shoes and felt like crying or something. I didn't have any smart alec thing to say to that fella, so I just stood there feeling real bad.
"It was awful quiet. Then some of the crowd got riled up at that man and told him to get out. Then they clapped for me and I started singing again. So everything worked out."
That last sentence might be one of the great understatements in show business. Nabors went on to be one of the most beloved television personalities of all time, and people still enjoy his work today.