‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Rodney Dillard Discusses Landing Role as Darling Brother

by Joe Rutland
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When watching the classic TV show The Andy Griffith Show, you probably remember the Darlings coming into Mayberry. They would roll into town and play their instruments. Sometimes, they’d be in a supportive role while Charlene Darling, played by Maggie Peterson, sings Salty Dog Blues. That band of brothers actually is a bluegrass group named the Dillards who appear on the show. Rodney Dillard, now 80 years old, talks about how he and the Dillards connected with the CBS sitcom and its star.

Rodney Dillard of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Recalls Ad For Group In Variety

“We ended up signing with Elektra Records through this producer we knew named Jim Dickson, who went on to produce the Byrds and a lot of other people that were part of that LA scene,” Dillard tells Bluegrass Today. “Dickson knew Jac Holzman, who had just started this label called Elektra. I’m still friends with Jac. He’s in his 90s now. Anyway, the company put an ad in Variety magazine that said, something to the effect of they had signed these funny looking guys from the Ozarks who play this funny music.”

That did the trick, though. See, Rodney says that one of the scripts for The Andy Griffith Show had a hillbilly group called the Darlings. “So he [producer Sheldon Leonard] looked at that ad and said, call these boys up,” Dillard says. “So they called our manager and we went over to the audition at the Gulf and Western Studios, which at that time was called Desilu.” He recalls walking onto a soundstage with Griffith and director Bob Sweeney there. Dillard says Sweeney says to them, “Show us what you got.” Rodney picks up the story.

Bluegrass Singer Remembers Seeing Sheldon Leonard With Stack of Letters

“So we started playing right away,” he says. “There was no microphone or anything. Then, about halfway through, Andy said, ‘That’s it.’ We thought he was kicking us out and we started to leave. That’s when he said, ‘Where are you going? You got the job.'” Then Rodney remembers having Leonard come over to see them with a stack of letters. Leonard says, “This is what they think of you. You’re doing another show.”

Dillard says, “That’s how it started. We ended up doing five or six. It started as a very schizophrenic career because people knew us mainly for The Andy Griffith Show.” He adds that while not trying to be arrogant, Dillard says that the group was one of the first major bluegrass groups. “We helped expose bluegrass to the world.” The Andy Griffith Show remains popular in reruns to this day and Rodney Dillard lives in Branson, Mo.

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