Volume 7, Issue 2

February 15, 1992

Cast Shares Mayberry Magic

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.

Complete with 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
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 Porter Waggoner.

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, Josephine.

After thanking 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 wild applause.

George entertained 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.

Meanwhile, Hal 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 moonshiners.

He absolutely 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 the stage

George continued 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
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-nita
"NITA, JUA-AH-AH-NITA" -- Don Knotts keeps his Opryland audience in stitches with the right pitch (and pitches).

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.

Questions and 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.

Subtle changes 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.

Next Stop: Mt. Airy

The excitement 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 hometown.

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.

Things officially 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.

Visit Weaver's Dept. Store and check out the Mayberry T-Shirts, Caps, Videos, Music and Books! Also, check to see if there is a chapter of TAGSRWC in your area and see how to start a chapter for yourself.

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