Keith Thibodeaux played Little Ricky and two different friends of Opie Taylor. If given his druthers, he probably liked hanging out in Mayberry the best.
Keith Thibodeaux is the now very grown-up child actor “I Love Lucy” fans know as Richard Keith. He turned 70 in December. He’s the last living regular cast member of “I Love Lucy,” the show based on the real-life marriage of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
Thibodeaux went by the name Richard Keith because Desi Arnaz, who was from Cuba, had a difficult time pronouncing his Louisiana Cajun last name.
Keith Thibodeaux was a musical prodigy. When he was 3, Thibodeaux earned $500 a week playing the drums with Horace Heidt, a bandleader who hosted a national radio show. Given Thibodeaux’s musical skills, he was an obvious choice to play “Little Ricky,” the only child on the show.
Keith Thibodeaux Spent So Much Time With Arnaz’s, He Was Like One Of Family
Lucie Arnaz, the real-life daughter, said she thought Keith Thibodeaux actually was related to the family. She said he taught Desi Jr., her brother, to play the drums.
“For a long time, I thought Keith was related to us because he went everywhere with us,” she said in a 2011 interview. “He was Desi’s best friend. Because of Keith, Desi learned to play the drums.
“My mother kind of adopted him in a way. He would go with us on weekends. Keith is in all of our home movies and all of our photographs growing up.”
Yet, given all the love the Arnaz family showed him, Keith Thibodeaux might’ve preferred “The Andy Griffith Show.”
He Says Andy Griffith Show Was More Relaxed
He played two different friends of young Opie (Ron Howard). Keith Thibodeaux appeared in a dozen episodes from season three through six. First, he was Opie’s friend, Carter French. Then, he played Johnny Paul Jason. He portrayed that character 11 times.
Keith Thibodeaux felt comfortable on the Andy Griffith set. For one, he had the same tutor from the “I Love Lucy.”
And, the approach to both shows was starkly different. Directors with “I Love Lucy” filmed it in front of a live audience with three different cameras.
Keith Thibodeaux recently talked about his experience. He said “The I Love Lucy’ set was a wonderful set, great people. But there was a little bit more pressure.”
Plus, each episode of the “Andy Griffith Show” took about a week to film. The pace was leisurely. The vibe was different.
“And ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ was a wonderful experience,” Keith Thibodeaux said. “The set was more laid back, more country…they (the actors) were basically like they were on the show. Andy would play checkers with the make-up man…he’d often strum his guitar with the cast in the back. It was just a good, down-home set.”
Thibodeaux moved back to Louisiana. He raised his family in Mississippi. He kept with music as part of the Christian rock group, David And The Giants.
But somewhere, somebody is recognizing him as playing a kid on two of the top TV shows in American history.