It was back last
September that Mayberry fans flocked by the thousands to see 10 TAGS cast
members reunited for four fantastic shows at Opryland in Nashville.
And then thousands
more swooped into Mt. Airy, N.C., for more down-home fun during Mayberry
Days the following weekend. (See "Chapter News" for a run-down of chapters
represented at Opryland and in Mt. Airy.)
First to Nashville.
It all began on a Friday evening as the cast members starred on TNN's "Nashville
Now!" for an entire show dedicated to Mayberry.
a jail cell and squad car replica, the set conjured up Mayberry memories
as cast members Don Knotts, George Lindsey, Betty Lynn, Maggie Peterson,
Hal Smith, Jack Prince, The Dillards (Rodney Dillard, Mitch Jayne and Dean
Webb, plus talented non-cast-member Steve Cooley) and Doug Dillard
per-formed and reminisced about Mayberry with host Ralph Emery and guest
performer Tom T. Hall.
BACK ON THE TRUCK - The Darling kids
(l-r: Doug Dillard, Rodney Dillard, Dean Webb hidden behind Rodney, Maggie
Peterson, and Mitch Jayne) make waves at Opryland.
After the fun
at "Nashville Now!" the cast members headed next door to the Grand Ole Opry,
where an appreciative audience cheered as they were welcomed by Opry member
The next day the
cast had a quick rehearsal at Opryland's new amphitheater, lunch and then
a press conference before the first show. An overflow crowd, electric with
anticipation, was on hand for the historic gathering. (It would be the first
time the cast members had performed in character in Mayberry skits in front
of a live audience, and the first time Don Knotts had appeared in a live,
public cast reunion.)
But first a few
jars of Aunt Bee's Homemade Pickles had to be given away to the people who
had traveled the farthest to get to the show. (England took the top prize
this time.) The winner was presented a jar and serenaded with "Flow Gently
Sweet Afton" by Opryland's clever version of Mayor Pike's off-key daughter,
sponsors American Airlines, Park Suites and Chevrolet/Geo (along with TAGSRWC),
Opryland host Phillip Stegner (who produced, directed and helped write much
of the show) joined George Lindsey on stage as the curtain was raised to
with some wonderful comedy bits and assumed the role of Mayberry host when
the Darling boys (The Dillards and Doug Dillard) rode on stage in a beautiful
flatbed truck. Everybody got off the truck and proceeded to play and sing
old Mayberry favorites like "Dooley," "Ebo Walker" and "Doug's Tune."
Then Maggie Peterson
skipped in slick as a whistle and joined the boys for "Salty Dog" and the
one that makes everybody cry, "There Is a Time." The audience also joined
in for a enthusiastic sing-along of "Somebody Touched Me." After that, it
was everybody back on the truck and they were off down the hollow.
Smith had staggered in as Otis-carrying a vase. George helped him off stage.
He just missed running into Jack Prince, the golden-voiced king of Mayberry
thrilled the audience with his heartfelt Rafe Hollister renditions: "Lonesome
Road" and "Ridin' the New River Train." Nobody sings 'em like Jack, and the
audience stood up spontaneously to let him know.
Once again, Hal
Smith lost his way onto the stage, this time with a relative of Jimmy the
goat (no, not Uncle Nat) in tow. The dynamite duo then wandered off
on with Goober ease. Naturally, the audience couldn't let him get by without
sewing up his fingers and impersonating Gary Grant, Edward G. Robin-son and
Chester from "Gunsmoke" George also threw in some hilarious new
material-demonstrating why he is one of the most requested entertainer/emcees
in the country.
Oh, but then came
you know who again with his ... this time riding in the sidecar of a motorcycle.
George once again shooed him off and continued his comedy routine
But wait, here
he comes again-this time behind the wheel of a miniature car. After George
pried him out of the car, Otis sobered up for some stand-up of his own. Hal
intoxicated the crowd with his marvelous stories and then performed some
of the popular cartoon voices he has done over the years, including: the
original Barney Rubble and Dino from "The Flintstones," "Smurfs" and "DuckTales"
characters, and Winnie the Pooh and Owl.
GLEE CLUB -- George Lindsey and Betty
Lynn share laughs at reunion show.
Hal would leave
again (this time for good) and no sooner did he head off than who should
arrive but Betty Lynn, riding in Rodney Thomas' sparkling squad car replica.
Betty and George visited and shared Mayberry stories, but Betty was on a
mission: Thelma Lou couldn't find Barney. He was supposed to be at choir
practice George suggested trying the courthouse and off she went in the squad
car as the audience cheered.
As the strains
of "Good Old 14-A" faded into the background, "Barney Music" came up and
the crowd began to scream with excitement. It could mean only one thing:
Knotts Landing - Barney had Arrived!
The applause thundered
into an immediate standing ovation as Don Knotts, decked out in his deputy
uniform, patrolled the stage like the rugged lawman he will always be. "My
body is a weapon," he stated matter-of-factly, sniffing the air with confidence
The audience roared its approval.
"NITA, JUA-AH-AH-NITA" -- Don Knotts
keeps his Opryland audience in stitches with the right pitch (and
Of course, if
Barn ever needs a little back up, he has always got his old persuader handy.
(Sniff!) And as you might expect, the old Roscoe did go off accidentally
in three of the Opryland shows. (Adding to the hilarity, the gun Mayberrily
did NOT go off accidentally in the first show. Now that's Barney!)
Don then treated
the crowd to a pantomime of a baseball pitcher that he used to do for Ron
Howard on the TAGS set. It was brilliant comedy that had the audience spellbound
with every pitch.
Don left the mound
to adoring applause, and George Lindsey came out to wrap up the show. He
introduced the cast again as a backdrop with the words to "My Hometown" was
lowered for the audience and cast to sing along with together.
answers from the audience followed, and then artist Annie Matson presented
each cast member with a specially commissioned print of her drawing commemorating
the weekend with the cast.
The cast members
caught their breath and then were ushered over to the Opryland Festival Grounds,
where thousands of fans were nibbling away at Aunt Bee's Picnic and preparing
to meet the Mayberry stars.
What it was, was
football-field-length lines of devoted TAGS watchers, meandering across the
grounds and patiently hoping for the opportunity to say hello and perhaps
get an autograph.
The picnic also
turned out to be a great place for TAGSRWC members and other inns from all
across the country to meet and share favorite Mayberry stories.
All the cast greeted
as many people as possible and signed as many autographs as they could until
it was time for them to head back to the amphitheater and prepare for another
spectacular show. likewise, they would please crowds with two shows and a
picnic again on Sunday.
were made with each show. By the last show Sunday, new twists included Rodney
Dillard pulling out his harmonica, putting the entire instrument into his
mouth and then playing it - to the amazement and delight of the audience
And George finally recited his popular poem, "What Mayberry Means to Me."
But the time came
when the last note was played and the last hands clapped. The thrilling weekend
of Mayberry reunion and fun was over. But the good feelings and the smiles
live on the in the reruns of the memories of all who attended.
of the Opryland weekend was a hard act to follow, but if any place could
do it, it would have to be the peaceful town of Mt. Any, NC. And so it was
that many people who bad been at Opryland packed their bags and headed out
again the following weekend to the Mayberry Days celebration in Andy Griffith's
Mt. Airy can remind
a visitor of Mayberry on just about any given day But daring Mayberry Days,
it's almost overwhelming as the town pulls out all stops to pay gentle tribute
to Andy Griffith and the show.
kicked off with a proclamation on Friday by Mayor Maynard Beamer, looking
every bit the part of Mayor Pike The rest of the day was filled with pork
chop sandwiches and breaded hamburgers at the Snappy Lunch, lots of jawing
and a few haircuts at Floyd's City Barbershop, and plenty of mingling and
strolling along Main Street.
Back at the Andy
Griffith Playhouse (home of the sponsoring Surry Arts Council), visitors
could kick back with some outstanding bluegrass music on the lawn, checkers,
Aunt Bee's Bake Sale and TAGS reruns dueling on a pair of TV's.
Also popular were
the walking tours of the town, including a visit to the refurbished old jail.
Just for kids there were diversions like Opie's Potato Sack Races, Ernest
T. Bass Rock Throwin' Contests, Emmett's Nail Drivin' Contest and Otis' Tile
Therapy (work on a Mayberry mural of mosaics).
The day was topped
off with a marvelous concert by The Doug Dillard Band that had the packed
house stomping their feet to all of their favorite bluegrass tunes.
After that, some
folks did take in the movie at the drive-in, but most headed back to the
Mayberry Motor inn or the Calloway Motel to rest up for a big Saturday.
With a mouth-watering
breakfast ready as early as 5:30 a.m., the Snappy Lunch can't be beat for
starting your day right in Mt. Any. Some Goober gluttons have even been known
to practically camp out there all morning and right on through lunch.
But on this Saturday,
there's a parade to attend. And talk about Mayberry style. With everything
from the Potato Queen to Emmett's pickup truck, this parade would set the
tone for the day. Doug Dillard and his band had their own vehicle, as did
TAGSRWC's Barney chapter. There was Earlie Gilley's wrecker and a couple
of snazzy squad car replicas. And of course the Fun Girls showed up, though
it's not known if they ever caught up with the Andy and Barney look-alikes.
After the parade,
there was another full day of clogging and memorabilia displays, plus an
artmarket and lots of the same sorts of Ian-filled activities as the day
before. That evening Frank Levering's play, "Hometown," put the finishing
touches on a fantastic weekend.
Mt. Any is a charming
place to visit anytime, but especially if you're ever nearby during the last
weekend of September, you'll be right at home... in Mayberry.