It might surprise some of us to know that, straight from the mouth of Andy Griffith, Mayberry was not actually based on Mount Airy, North Carolina. At least, not officially.
In a 1998 interview with the Archive of American Television, Griffith was asked about Mayberry’s inspiration. Asked specifically, “What did people back home think of all this?” Griffith replied, “I don’t know what they thought at first, but now they think I based the show on Mount Airy.”
According to Andy Griffith, the concept of Mayberry came from “either Sheldon [Leonard] or Artie [Stander].” Leonard was executive producer while Stander was an early writer on the show. Griffith explained that initially, Sheldon Leonard didn’t want the town to be specifically in North Carolina. He wanted it just somewhere in the south. But, the rumor grew that Mayberry was based on Mount Airy mostly because of something Griffith did.
“I gradually started slipping in real towns in North Carolina,” he said in the interview. “So it became, during that first year, a town in North Carolina.”
Since then, Mount Airy became a tourist attraction for fans of The Andy Griffith Show. Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou on the show, even moved there later in her life. Whether Mayberry is based on Andy Griffith’s hometown or not, Mount Airy still celebrates its famous son with parades, Mayberry Days festivals, and a porkchop sandwich at Snappy Lunch.
Andy Griffith and Don Knotts Once Used Footage from Seattle and Called it Raleigh
In the Andy Griffith Show episode “Andy and Barney in the Big City,” Andy Taylor and Barney Fife travel to Raleigh, North Carolina; but the scenery looked suspiciously like the Pacific Northwest.
When the episode aired, fans speculated that Andy and Barney weren’t in Raleigh at all. Instead, they seemed to be shooting in Seattle. The footage featured the Seattle Tower, the Rhodes Brothers Department Store, and the Savoy Hotel, all Seattle staples at the time.
The footage caused even more confusion when the end credits claimed they filmed the episode in Culver City, California. Talk about a mystery. Most likely, the show used stock footage to create the illusion of Barney and Andy traveling. But why use Seattle footage?
The show was shot mostly at Desilu Studios, with the exteriors done in Culver City. There probably wasn’t a huge budget for filming on location, so the show had to make do. But, years later, fans are still confused as to why Seattle footage was used. They could’ve used images of, say, actually Raleigh, North Carolina. But, who knows; this is probably one Andy Griffith Show mystery that will never be solved.