What’s Bugging Andy Griffith?

The Post examines the man behind Maybury's sheriff.

The Andy Griffith show actors Don Knots and Andy Griffith

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Originally published January 24, 1964

Griffith is a fearsome worrier, so petrified by social situations that he avoids most big Hollywood functions. “I feel I just might not be able to cope,” says Griffith. “I wish I could be like [Sheriff] Andy Taylor. He’s nicer than I am — more outgoing and easygoing. I get awful mad awful easy.” Griffith freely admits to what seem to him monumental shortcomings, among them a tendency to keep public emotion at arm’s length. “It’s the way we mountain people are,” he tries to explain.

“My own grandpappy never showed big emotion but once in his life. Lying on his deathbed, he suddenly got up and kissed my grandma gently on the check — he’d never been seen before even to touch her! Then he took back to his bed and died. One emotional act in his whole life, but no one ever forgot it.”

Andy Griffith driving a tractor
Just a country boy: Andy Griffith, owner of a 53-acre tract in North Carolina, disks the soil at his vacation home to prepare for the planting of a stand of cedar trees. (SEPS)

When Andy looks back on his childhood, he sometimes assumes a prismatic double vision. One moment he recalls “the fun we kids had in the summer kickin’ rocks and lyin’ to each other in that wonderful slowed-down time between dusk and dark.” In the next, he speaks of himself as a skinny, gawky, rejected, unathletic kid hurt by his nickname of “Andy Gump” [a cartoon character] and remembers that once, when he was 11, someone called him “white trash.”

As he expands as a man and an actor, Griffith thrives in what another rural comic, Pat Buttram, has called the best of all possible worlds — “a Southern accent with a Northern income.”

Once, aboard an airliner, Griffith turned to his manager. “Say, you think I oughta lose my Southern accent?” he asked seriously.

“Sure,” the other shot back, “if you want to try another line of work.”

 —“I Think I’m Gaining on Myself” by Donald Freeman, January 25, 1964

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Read “I Think I’m Gaining On Myself” by Donald Freeman from the January 25, 1964, issue of the Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

This article is featured in the July/August 2020 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured image: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

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