R.I.P. Maggie Peterson, beloved singer Charlene Darling on The Andy Griffith Show
She also appeared on the big screen with both Andy and Don Knotts.
Classic TV actor and singer Maggie Peterson will always be remembered for her charming personality and delightful voice singing bluegrass tunes as part of the musical Darling family on The Andy Griffith Show. Though she only played Charlene Darling in five episodes, they are some of the sitcom’s best. She also played a different character, Doris, in the season eight episode “A Girl for Goober.”
Charlene was Peterson’s first Hollywood role and it was a natural fit. She was no stranger to singing in a family band. According to Deadline, Peterson began her career in showbusiness singing alongside family members in a local Colorado group called The Ja-Da Quartet.
Peterson’s big break came when Andy Griffith’s agent Dick Linke saw the group at a record convention.
Peterson debuted on The Andy Griffith Show in 1963, credited as Margaret Ann Peterson, in the episode “The Darlings Are Coming.” The musical mountain family, comprised of real-life band The Dillards and character actor Denver Pyle along with Peterson, were known for playing bluegrass standards with funny names. Peterson infused Charlene with a sweet sentimentality that turned into a running gag about how many tunes, even the ones with names like “Slimy River Bottom” and “Don’t Hit Your Grandma with a Great Big Stick,” made her cry.
Though Charlene Darling is her most memorable part, Peterson actually had a bigger role on the short-lived Bill Dana Show. A spinoff of The Danny Thomas Show, it followed Bill Dana as a bellhop who interacts with various characters at a fancy New York hotel. The show featured many actors who would go on to make a name for themselves in other projects. Peterson played a waitress named Susie, while Lost in Space actor Jonathan Harris appeared as the hotel manager and Get Smart’s Don Adams played the hotel detective. Bing Crosby’s son, Gary, also costarred as another bellhop before his turn as Officer Wells in Adam-12.
After playing Charlene Darling, Peterson continued a great working relationship with Andy Griffith, appearing in spinoffs Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C and Mayberry R.F.D. She was also in two 1969 films with fellow Mayberry alums. She was in Andy’s Angel in My Pocket and the Don Knotts starrer The Love God?
Peterson continued to guest star in hit shows like Green Acres and The Odd Couple before marrying her husband of over 40 years, jazz musician Gus Mancuso, in 1978.
She had a few roles in the Eighties, most notably her appearance as Charlene Darling in the TV movie Return to Mayberry.
Peterson kept her connection to The Andy Griffith Show alive throughout her later years. She loved interacting with fans and attending Mayberry events. In a Facebook post announcing her passing, her family expressed to friends and fans, “your love and devotion helped her to not feel alone. She made many mentions to us about how she couldn't believe how generous you all were. You truly made a positive impact on her life and helped her during some very difficult times.” The post continued “We hope that during this difficult time you can find solace in knowing how important you were for making the end of Maggie's life much better.”
Maggie Peterson was 81.