Of course, actor Jim Nabors played the unsophisticated Gomer Pyle beginning in 1963. He joined the cast during Season 3 as a goofy gas station attendant, which was supposed to be a temporary, one-episode role.
But his appearance went over so well, he became a regular cast member on The Andy Griffith Show. Additionally, he even earned his own spin-off series on CBS titled Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., which ran from 1964 to 1969.
It’s hard to believe that Nabors might not have been Gomer Pyle, but evidently that’s the case, according to Griffith. The legendary actor joined Ralph Emery on the Record back in 1996, and shared that another The Andy Griffith Show star was almost cast in his place. Filming was beginning soon, and showrunners still hadn’t cast this one bit part. Show creator Aaron Ruben came very close to giving the part to George Lindsey who later played Goober Pyle – Gomer’s dim-witted cousin.
“I asked Aaron if he would read [Jim Nabors]. Aaron was already about ready to cast another hillbilly named George Lindsey. And I said, ‘Jim, you want to read for this?’ He said, ‘Yea.’ I read with him. Aaron said, ‘That first guy has some experience, but this boy seems to have something special.’ I said, ‘Why don’t you throw it to Jim?’ And Jim got it, of course, and became a regular on the show. And then after about three years, he got his own show,” Andy Griffith explained.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Hilariously Details Initial Meeting With Jim Nabors
During the same interview, Andy Griffith shared an amusing story about the first time he ever met Jim Nabors. Griffith may have seemed friendly as can be to everyone in Mayberry, but even he had his limits when it came to strangers in his home.
“Jim was working at a place called ‘The Horn,’ a nightclub up on Santa Monica Boulevard. A friend of ours dropped that strange-looking man off to my house one day and then left,” Griffith said of Nabors. “So, I had to try to make conversation with him. I didn’t know him, or anything about him. I took him for a ride in the car, and stuff. Finally he left, and I was really thankful.”
“And then about a week later, I was forced into going over to ‘The Horn’ to see him,” Griffith continued. “After he finished his spot, I was talking to him out on the street. I said, ‘I don’t know what you do, but I’ll tell you one thing – whatever it is, it’s electric. It’s powerful.”
The Andy Griffith Show star went on to say that he was blown away by Nabors’ performance. His unique mix of comedy compared to the way he sang impressed Griffith immensely. Nabors’ “hillbilly” personality paired with his rich, baritone singing voice caught Griffith and the creators of The Andy Griffith Show off guard, but in a good way. Nabors’ obvious talents turned a one-off appearance on the show into a full-time gig.