‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Jim Nabors Parlayed Behind-the-Scenes Jobs into Work on Screen

by John Jamison
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Season 3 of “The Andy Griffith Show” changed Jim Nabors’ life forever. The late singer and actor earned himself a role on the show after Andy Griffith saw him perform at a nightclub. But before he knocked the socks off of one of the most iconic TV personalities of all time, Nabors worked behind the scenes.

When he first arrived in Los Angele, Jim Nabors landed a job as a film editor for NBC. Back then, that meant physically cutting and splicing film together. It’s not a job that one did without any experience. Fortunately for Nabors, he worked as an editor in Chattanooga before he moved west.

But Nabors’ true talent was his angelic singing voice. The man was basically an opera singer. And incorporating singing performances into his nightclub act, switching back and forth between a silky smooth voice and his Gomer Pyle-esque twang, is what first caught the attention of Griffith. He knew right away that Nabors would be a perfect fit for the Mayberry setting of “The Andy Griffith Show.”

In fact, his singing voice was the hook they used to get fans on board with the Gomer Pyle character. In a 1964 episode of the show titled “The Song Festers,” Nabors belts out the choir’s song from across the street, commanding the attention of the entire town.

But “The Andy Griffith Show” wasn’t the peak of the Jim Nabors renaissance. He parlayed the connections he made from his behind-the-scenes work to get his foot in the door. From there, his talent did the rest.

Jim Nabors Showed Star Talent on ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ And Star Talent Deserves Its Own Show

“The Andy Griffith Show” was only the beginning for Nabors. A mere two years after his first of 22 appearances on the iconic show, Nabors became the title character in one of his own. And on top of that, he toured the country with Andy Griffith and Don Knotts, performing his own comedy bits alongside the two legends.

Gomer Pyle: USMC” premiered in 1964, and it was such a success that Jim Nabors was able to continue doing it for the next five years. He played the character over the course of 150 episodes. But that’s far from the extent of his accomplished career. In fact, he summed up his career best in a 2014 interview with Indianapolis Monthly.

“I did more than 200 films. And I did 46 albums. Then I played Vegas 35 years running, headlining. Each one was exciting in its own way. I was very fortunate I was able to change up my career,” Nabors said. “The smartest thing I ever did was try to become an entertainer instead of an actor! I don’t think I’m a very good actor.”

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