‘Gomer Pyle’ Star Jim Nabors Was ‘The Carol Burnett Show’s First-Ever Guest

by Joe Rutland
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Carol Burnett was a big fan of Jim Nabors. When it came time to launch “The Carol Burnett Show” on CBS, her first guest was a no-brainer.

Burnett, who would watch Nabors on his hit CBS comedy “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” was getting close in 1966 to launching her variety show.

CBS had given Burnett a chance due to her success on “The Gary Moore Show” as well as her Broadway hit “Once Upon A Mattress.” Giving a female comic her own variety show when men like Jackie Gleason and Dean Martin had their popular shows was risky for CBS.

But they took the risk anyway.

Nabors happened to be in New York and crossed paths with Burnett. According to her book, “This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection,” Burnett said she and Nabors “hit it off immediately.”

Nabors Gets Fan Letter Before ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ Appearance

Before their meeting, though, Burnett actually sent Nabors a fan letter after seeing a specific “Gomer Pyle” episode, according to an article on ME.tv.

All of this led to Burnett asking Nabors to be the first guest on the first “The Carol Burnett Show” in 1967. From that first show onward, Burnett’s variety show found fans and a rhythm that made it must-see Saturday night TV.

“When the show took off, we looked on Jim as our good-luck charm,” Burnett writes in her book. “So he wound up being the guest on the first show every season for 11 years.”

Nabors and Burnett last got together to celebrate Nabors’ 85th birthday in Hawaii. Jim Nabors died on Nov. 30, 2017, at 87.

Upon his death, Burnett told The Hollywood Reporter that she and Nabors were “close friends for 52 years. … My heart is heavy. I’m grateful he was a large part of my life. I miss him. I love him.”

Carol Burnett Always Had Red Autograph Book At End Of Show

If you’ve seen full-length episodes of “The Carol Burnett Show,” then you know about the fairly regular close of her shows.

Burnett would appear, maybe still in costume, sing “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together,” and tug her left ear. She would say goodnight then start seeking out her guest stars.

What did she have in her hands? A large red autograph book, which she asked all of her guest stars to sign every show. It became like a rite of passage on the show with so many stars scribbling their names down in the book.

You name them, they signed it. Burnett was fascinated with Hollywood as a young child growing up in Houston, Texas, before moving on to fame. She would see all the top movie stars and want to meet them. Well, a lot of them made stops on Burnett’s show. She got their autographs, something that she coud treasure throughout her life.

Outsider.com