Mayberry blood brothers: The light and darkness of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts

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“Wedding Bells in Mayberry — Andy Takes a Bride:” Sheriff Andy Taylor [Andy Griffith] finally ties the knot with fiery elementary school teacher Helen Crump [Aneta Corsaut], albeit with a sidesplitting monkey wrench as a best man — former deputy Barney Fife [Don Knotts]. The shot was used for the cover of the July 28, 1968, “All Florida TV” special Sunday issue of The Pensacola News-Journal and likely many other newspapers plugging the fall debut of CBS’s “Mayberry R.F.D.” starring Ken Berry and former “Andy Griffith Show” regulars Frances Bavier, George Lindsey, Jack Dodson, and Paul Hartman in Griffith’s old time slot. “Andy and Helen Get Married” became one of the highest rated TV episodes of the 1960s. Image Credit: Mayberry Mania Memorabilia! / Flickr / CBS Photo Archive

The Daniel de Visé Interview

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In spite of a yellow cardigan sweater and rust orange shirt, Andy Griffith is a convincing Ritz Crackers commercial pitchman in 1978. “Everything tastes great when it sits on a Ritz…you hungry?” and “Mmmm-mmmm…good cracker…from Nabisco” were some of Griffith’s popular Ritz catchphrases. Photography by Sid Avery / MPTV Images
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Tucked on the very last page of Don Knotts’ 1999 memoir “Barney Fife and Other Characters I Have Known” is this tender black and white portrait featuring longtime companion and eventual wife Francey Yarborough, photographed by a waitress during an evening on the town. Image Credit: Courtesy of Daniel de Visé
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No sparking: Sheriff Andy Taylor [Andy Griffith] mischievously courts school marm Helen Crump [Aneta Corsaut] in this circa 1966 shot from the RKO Forty Acres backlot in Culver City, California. Image Credit: Los Angeles Morgue Files / CBS Photo Archive
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Under a newsboy cap and dyed sideburns, Andy Griffith is Charlie Matlock, a gas station owner, amateur sleuth, and astute father of the titular “Matlock” protagonist. “The Legacy” served as a two-part flashback episode broadcast on November 19, 1992. Image Credit: ABC Photo Archives / Getty Images
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“As a kid, Don Knotts’ first attempts to entertain people were as a ventriloquist with a dummy he named Danny,” explains “Andy & Don” biographer Daniel de Visé of this charming August 6, 2020, close-up. “The original Danny disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Don had other dummies over the years, and this little guy may be the last. He actually demonstrated his ventriloquism technique to me.” Photography by Kai Philippe / Courtesy of Daniel de Visé
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Don Knotts metamorphoses from an introverted, unassuming individual nervously awaiting his stage entrance into one of the most outlandishly funny entertainers of the 20th century in these April 22, 1986, shots taken at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia. Knotts was in the South Georgia “Azalea City,” then numbering 38,000 residents, to present “An Evening with Don Knotts — A Lecture in Comedy” just nine days after the ratings bonanza “Return to Mayberry” reunion aired on NBC. Both Image Credits: Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections / Flickr
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Literally overseeing client Andy Griffith, manager Dick Linke clutches a three-pronged pitchfork atop three bales of hay in 1969 and reconvenes approximately a decade later during a recording session. Photography by Michel Rougier / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images; Right Image Credit: The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club
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“Alright, Sheriff Lamar Potts, come get me now:” Producer Dick Atkins received this Christmas 1982 card from Andy Griffith and soon-to-be-third wife Cindi Knight two months after filming concluded for the CBS movie-of-the-week “Murder in Coweta County,” helmed by one-time “TAGS” director Gary Nelson [i.e. “Malcolm at the Crossroads” features the sole color appearance of deranged rock-throwing hillbilly Ernest T. Bass]. Griffith’s rendering of reprehensible Georgia bootlegger, convicted murderer, and churchgoer John Wallace is mesmerizing. Image Credit: The Dick Atkins Collection / “Murder in Coweta County’s” official Facebook
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Deputy Warren Ferguson [Jack Burns] confidently believes he can beat famed Tombstone Marshal Wyatt Earp’s apparently wimpy grandnephew Clarence Earp [Richard Jury] in the oddly affecting “Wyatt Earp Rides Again,” the 20th episode of “The Andy Griffith Show’s” sixth season issued on January 31, 1966. The episode is noteworthy for being penned by Jack Elinson, perhaps the sole writer from the series’ debut season still contributing scripts [he co-wrote “The New Housekeeper” pilot as well as pivotal second episode “The Manhunt” with Charles Stewart]. “Wyatt Earp Rides Again” also costarred veteran scene chewer Pat Hingle and was Burns’ 11th and final “TAGS” episode. Image Credit: Screengrab / Sitcoms Online user Ohio8 / CBS / Paramount
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I’ll be dogged: Goober Pyle [George Lindsey] doesn’t mind being interrupted from perusing a cool comic book in front of Floyd’s Barber Shop by pal Andy Taylor [Andy Griffith] circa 1965. Image Credit: Sitcoms Online user “Mr. Television” / CBS Photo Archive
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Ralph Furley [Don Knotts], roving bachelor and ridiculously clothed apartment landlord, meets his comedic match in pratfall-practicing Jack Tripper [John Ritter] in a promotional still for ABC’s “Three’s Company” circa 1982. As recounted in Chris Mann’s 1998 book “Come and Knock on Our Door: A Hers and Hers and His Guide to ‘Three’s Company,’” Ritter said, “It’s amazing how much we learned just by watching a pro like Don. Few people realize what a consummate actor he is. [Director] Dave Powers and I were jumping up and down when Don came in. It was like, ‘Santa’s coming!’ I loved the Ropers and missed them so much, but then Don brought in his own thing. He’s possibly the only person who could’ve replaced them” [original landlords Norman Fell and Audra Lindley were enticed to headline their own sitcom which ultimately failed]. Image Credit: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy
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Just plain simple men fighting organized crime with raw courage: The book cover of Daniel de Visé’s “Andy & Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show,” dropped on November 3, 2015. The three-time author correctly states, “This image captures the relationship between Sheriff Andy Taylor [Andy Griffith] and Deputy Barney Fife [Don Knotts] as well as any picture I’ve seen.” Image Credit: Hulton Archive / Getty Images / Simon & Schuster / Courtesy of Daniel de Visé
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The sideburns are growing: Don Knotts returns in his famous salt and pepper suit to bolster “My Friend, the Mayor,” the pilot episode of “The New Andy Griffith Show.” Airing on January 8, 1971, a mere three weeks after Griffith’s post-”TAGS” series “Headmaster” was axed by CBS after 13 episodes, Barney Fife’s name is oddly never explicitly mentioned although it’s obvious that’s who the character is. George Lindsey [Goober Pyle] and Paul Hartman [repairman Emmett Clark] are other “TAGS” regulars who make guest appearances in “My Friend, the Mayor.” Here Griffith retreated to past glories as a small-town folksy mayor named Andy Sawyer in contrast to the more dramatic, urban issue-oriented “Headmaster” where he was in charge of a California private school. Nothing worked though as the sitcom was cancelled after 10 episodes had been broadcast including one centering around the red-hot Glen Campbell. Image Credit: Sitcoms Online user “Mr. Television” / CBS Photo Archive
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Published on June 5, 2018, “The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France” is the third book written by Daniel de Visé. Image Credit: Atlantic Monthly Press / Courtesy of Daniel de Visé
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Lots of luck to you and yours! Sheriff Andy Taylor [Andy Griffith], Wally’s Filling Station gas attendant Gomer Pyle [Jim Nabors], and Deputy Barney Fife [Don Knotts] encounter “The Haunted House,” the second episode of season four of “The Andy Griffith Show” broadcast on October 7, 1963. Daniel de Visé writes in “Andy & Don” that “Griffith discovered the Sylacauga, Alabama, boy singing arias at a Santa Monica nightclub called the Horn in 1962. For all his renown, Gomer Pyle would remain on the ‘Griffith Show’ for just 23 episodes in seasons three and four before striking out on his own with the hit TV series ‘Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.’” Musing about the enduring appeal of “TAGS,” in 1998 Nabors told future “Two Chairs — No Waiting” podcaster Allan Newsome that “Mayberry was a never-never land. There was never an illness, war, or fighting. It was the utopia of a small Southern town — only love, fun, and the usual characters that we all respond to in our own daily lives.” Image Credit: CBS Photo Archive / Getty Images
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During “The Comeback” book tour in August 2018, ink slinger Daniel de Visé goes for a rented bike expedition in Portland, Oregon. Note the vintage white T-shirt depicting Competitive Cycling, an underground bicycle racing magazine from the 1970s. Image Credit: Courtesy of Daniel de Visé

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Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

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