Jim Nabors was so brilliant when he joined the Andy Griffith Show that the network created another sitcom just for his character, Gomer Pyle.
After all, surprise, surprise, surprise became part of the national vernacular right after shazam in the 1960s. And it was all because of Nabors and the Andy Griffith Show. And if you don’t remember it, then shame, shame, shame on you. That was a Gomerism, too.
And Nabors was so engaging in Gomer Pyle USMC that the network decided to give the Alabama native another show. They called it the Jim Nabors Hour. And it featured Nabor’s beautiful baritone singing voice.
Here’s how it all started. Nabors moved to California to start his career in show business. Before anyone saw him on national television, Nabors was performing in a stage show outside Los Angeles. He played several characters in his act. One of them was kind of a country bumpkin. Griffith saw the show and recognized some of his own self in Nabors’ act and had writers of the Andy Griffith Show create a character.
Gomer Pyle, the lovable, dim-witted mechanic, only was supposed to appear on one episode on the Andy Griffith Show. And that was episode 13 (The Bank Job) of season three.
CBS launched Gomer Pyle, with its pilot part of the finale of the Andy Griffith Show in May 1964. It officially started in September 1964. This time, the lovable mechanic was a Marine. Fans loved Gomer in that role, too. During its five-year run, the show never dropped out of the national top 10 in overall audience.
So after Gomer Pyle ended, CBS decided it couldn’t lose Nabors. The country adored him. That’s why the network created the Jim Nabors Hour. Plus, the network added two more Gomer Pyle actors to the variety show. Frank Sutton, who played Sgt Carter, was on the show, as was Ronnie Schell, who portrayed Gomer’s best friend, Duke.
The first episode had a nice Andy Griffith Show flavor to it. That’s because Griffith was a guest. So was Don Knotts, who portrayed Barney Fife. Nabors sang Green Green Grass of Home and The Impossible Dream, tunes that were perfect for his sweeping, enchanting voice.
The big gets didn’t stop with the premiere. Carol Burnett appeared in the second episode. Nabors performed I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You. And he and Burnett performed a duet of love songs.
Other guest stars that season included Glen Campbell, Rock Hudson and Tennessee Ernie Ford. NFL stars Roman Gabriel and Daryle Lamonica also made appearances.
The Jackson Five helped launch season two. And Johnny Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, performed in the finale. But the Nabors Hour fell victim to the CBS rural purge in 1971.