‘Gomer Pyle’: Jim Nabors Credited Alabama Childhood for Spending Many Years in Hawaii

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. star Jim Nabors loved the farming life when he was growing up in Sylacauga, Alabama.

“Growing up in Alabama, I’ve always loved the process of farming,” Nabors said in an interview in 2008. “There’s just nothing in the world like that kind of lifestyle.”

It seems Nabors wanted to grow a more exotic crop than farmers did back home. When he and his partner moved to Hawaii in 1976, they bought a macadamia plantation.

Plus, who can blame the Gomer Pyle star for wanting to live in paradise, whether he was farming or sitting in the sand on a beautiful beach.

“It’s a little bit of paradise here,” Nabors said to describe his home. “It’s sunny and beautiful, and it stays that way all the time. I have friends on the East Coast who ask me, ‘Don’t you miss the seasons?’ and the truth is, I don’t.

“I always was a summer kid, even growing up back in Alabama,” he said. “And a life in Hawaii … is something I never get tired of.”

Sounded blissful.

Nabors retired from acting in 2013. And he basically retreated from singing the next year. God gave him a glorious baritone voice.

His retirement was well deserved. He’d been performing for a half century.

Nabors first started playing Gomer Pyle on the third season of the Andy Griffith Show. This was in 1962. Andy Griffith discovered Nabors performing at a nightclub near Los Angeles. Actor Howard McNear, who played Floyd, the town barber, needed to take a leave from the show for health reasons. So enter Gomer Pyle, the lovably, goofy gas attendant in Mayberry, N.C.

With a well-placed “Shazam” and “Goll-eeee,” Nabors became a popular character on the show. He was so popular that the show creators gave Nabors his own spinoff. And for this show, Gomer Pyle became a Marine.

And in Gomer Pyle, Nabors still played the sweet-natured small-town kid who infuriated his drill sergeant, Vince Carter. The show ran from 1964-69. The series never fell out of the top 10 in the ratings for its entire run.

But Jim Nabors could do more than play a gas station attendant or Marine on TV. In 1964, Nabors sang on the Danny Kaye Show. His sophisticated voice almost didn’t match the character he played on television.

Gomer Pyle ended when CBS gave Jim Nabors his own variety show. Nabors also made many appearances on the Carol Burnett Show.

One thing Nabors liked to do was sing before the Indianapolis 500. His last performance there was in 2014. By then, he’d performed the pre-race classic Back Home in Indiana 36 times.

The Indianapolis race always was Memorial Day weekend. And we know that kicks off summer. So, Gomer Pyle really did love everything about summer, no matter where he spent it.

Nabors died in 2017. He was 87.

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