While fans of “The Andy Griffith Show” might find it hard to believe star Andy Griffith had a successful career before the show, it’s true.
Griffith, who played Sheriff Andy Taylor on the CBS sitcom, chatted about his first TV appearance during a 1985 interview on “Late Night with David Letterman.”
“My first television appearance was ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’,” Griffith said. When asked by Letterman what year that was, Griffith replied, “Whew, that would be 1955.
“I had just come to New York,” Griffith said. “I used to entertain Rotary Clubs, civic clubs, and things like that in North Carolina. And I had a record called ‘What It Was, Was Football.’ Ed Sullivan wanted to sign me up for 18 shots, and William Morris would only let him have four. And I did the ‘Football’ monologue.”
Watch Griffith chat it up with Letterman during one of the show’s weeks in Los Angeles.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Almost Had A Huge Run With CBS Variety Show
For some context, “The Ed Sullivan Show” was one of CBS’s highest-rated shows for 30-plus years. In 1955, viewers tuned in every Sunday night to see music acts, comedians, and other acts. Getting a spot on the “Sullivan” show was a very big deal.
When Griffith mentions William Morris, he’s talking about the William Morris Agency that represented him at the time.
The fact that Sullivan, who ran his own show, wanted to give “The Andy Griffith Show” star 18 appearances or “shots” on Sullivan’s show says a lot about Griffith. But his own agency would just give the CBS powerhouse show four appearances.
“What It Was, Was Football” is a commentary Griffith, portraying an innocent country bumpkin, gives about the first time seeing a football game. His folkish words and way of talking about the game itself provided listeners with many laughs.
Show’s Star Thought That ‘Mayberry’ Itself Was Important Character
Of course, “The Andy Griffith Show” centered its activities around “Mayberry.” The city’s characteristics are based upon Mount Airy, N.C., the hometown of Andy Griffith.
Yet Griffith felt like “Mayberry” itself played an important character role on the show. He talked about it in a 1965 interview with The New York Times.
“I think it is because we – everyone on the show – have a real sense of community, of kindness toward one another,” Griffith said. “The basic rule by which we live comes through on the program, kindness comes through.
“The show also has a number of featured performers, each with a definite character we can write around for any episode,” Griffith said. “But equally important is the character of Mayberry itself. We try to make it a real little community with its small problems and those of its people put forth comedically.”
“Mayberry” has become an iconic name itself, used as a metaphor for small-town life by many people.