‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Don Knotts Had a Weird Gig While Starring as Barney Fife

by John Jamison
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We all know Don Knotts was hilarious as the hapless sidekick to Sheriff Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show.” What fans may not realize, however, is just how enterprising he was during his early days starring as Deputy Barney Fife. He lent his name and iconic face to several products over the years. One of those endorsements resulted in a highly entertaining commercial that is, in itself, almost an entire episode of a TV show.

When one considers how many celebrities appear as spokespeople for products these days, the side hustle Don Knotts was running doesn’t seem unusual. However, the way companies did things in the early 1960s is a far cry from the types of advertising we see today. And with Don Knotts as the star, one would be hard-pressed to fast-forward or skip the commercial.

In the early 1960s, “The Andy Griffith Show” was coming into its own. Capitalizing on that success, Don Knotts signed on a spokesman for McCulloch Karts, a company that manufactured engines and frames for go-karts. Well, he wasn’t a spokesman considering he doesn’t say a word in the 10-minute commercial. Instead, a narrator walks Knotts through all the finer details that make McCulloch products superior.

We can’t imagine a go-karting company would have the cash on hand to hire someone of Don Knotts’ status these days. In the early 1960s, however, it was a different story. Folks were going go-kart crazy during “The Andy Griffith Show” era, and the Barney Fife actor got himself a piece of the action.

The 10-minute McCulloch-Don Knotts saga is included for your viewing pleasure below. Believe it or not, the whole thing relies solely on Knotts’ physical comedy. Still, it’s quite the journey. By the end, Knotts has won a race and kissed the girl.

Andy Griffith’s Character on the ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ May As Well Have Been Sheriff Andy Griffith

Phew, that was a mouthful. Considering the title, it may seem like common sense, but Sheriff Andy Taylor wasn’t a character as much as Griffith playing himself.

Of course, for the sake of the narrative, all of the other characters, etc., it makes sense that Griffith would take on a different name. At the end of the day, however, what fans of “The Andy Griffith Show” are seeing on screen is essentially just Griffith on his best behavior.

“Andy Taylor contains the best part of myself. The best part. There are others parts of me never seen on the screen. I don’t think that would be wise,” Griffith told The New York Times in 1965.

Mayberry itself was based on Griffith’s hometown. He took the old “write what you know” adage and ran with it.

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