The popular 1960s Andy Griffith Show (ranked 5th) was responsible for introducing genuine mountain bluegrass music to suburban America. The Darling family from the Appalachian mountains show up in Mayberry for only six episodes, for one crisis or another, yet each time they launch into memorable toe-tapping family jams along with Andy, a musician in his own right. Starting in 1963, they brought nineteen songs to the American public, making a lasting impression through this perfect TV venue.
Backward mountain man Briscoe Darling has four sons—Oether, Jebbin, Ward, and Frankie, in the original script—and a daughter Charlene. They live by their own rules, either bringing trouble to town or causing it. Later, the boys are known as Doug, Rodney, Mitch, and Dean. But it hardly matters; if you ask them, they won’t answer anyhow. They only speak when they’re singing.
Got time to breathe, got time for music.
Mainly, they’re just called the boys. Doug Dillard, Rodney Dillard, Dean Webb, and Mitch Jayne are their real names in the real band, The Dillards. Doug plays banjo, Rodney plays guitar, Dean plays mandolin, and Mitch plays bass. Rodney sings and the others harmonize. Sometimes Charlene sings; even Briscoe solos once. But he mainly keeps rhythm on the jug.
Briscoe: “I didn’t know you stringed.”
Andy: “A little. What key?”
Briscoe: “Just jump in where you can and hang on.”
Here’s a sampling of the show’s Dillards/Darling music, some played with Andy.
Traditional Appalachian and/or American folksongs:
• “Shady Grove”
• “Boil Them Cabbage Down”
• “Cindy” (scene not in syndication)
• “Salty Dog” (scene not in syndication), sung in jail after “Banjo in Hollow”
“Ya bring your stringin’ instrument, sheriff?”
Original music written by The Dillards, performed by the Darlings and Andy:
• “Hickory Hollow”—I’m not sure if this is traditional or written by The Dillards. They play this in the episode “The Darlings are Coming.” Listen to the Dillards perform it on their album Back Porch Bluegrass.
Songs written by others, performed by the Darlings and Andy:
• “Dueling Banjos”—instrumental by Arthur Smith (1954)
• “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”—hymn by Anthony J. Showalter & Elisha A. Hoffman
• “Stay a Little Longer”—a western swing dance, by Bob Wills & Tommy Duncan
Even Opie gets into the act. He and Andy sing “Old Dan Tucker” for the Darlings.
Hailing from the Missouri Ozarks, Doug and Rodney Dillard were born into music and grew into respected studio musicians. They made several albums in the 1960s. As the first bluegrass band to electrify their instruments, they evolved from traditional bluegrass to more contemporary. Considered pioneers of folk rock, country rock, and progressive bluegrass, the Dillards influenced the Eagles, the Byrds, and Elton John.
Doug Dillard passed away in 2012 but Rodney still performs as part of The Dillards, sometimes with Maggie Peterson (Charlene Darling). As usual, they will perform at Mayberry Days in September, 2018.
Listen to a more current rendition of “Salty Dog” with Maggie and the Dillards from 2009, shortly after The Dillards were inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame.
Read more about them here. Hear them sing and talk about their own history, the origin of their songs, and how they ended up on The Andy Griffith Show (1999).
Even when the Darlings aren’t in town, there’s plenty of music in Mayberry. Andy plays guitar and sings folk songs and hymns on the front porch, serenading Aunt Bee, Opie, and others. At the courthouse, he and Opie sing “The Crawdad Song.”
You get a line and I’ll get a pole, baby
You get a line and I’ll get a pole, babe
You get a line and I’ll get a pole
And we’ll go down to the crawdad hole
Oh honey, baby mine.
Andy and guitarist Jim Lindsey (James Best) sing “New River Train” while Andy is detaining Jim in jail. Barney joins in as Aunt Bee shows up with chicken and dumplings, as if picking, singing, and serving dumplings in jail is the most natural thing in the world.
Andy’s folksong repertoire includes “Little Brown Church in the Dale” and “Down in the Valley,” the latter with Peggy (Joanna Moore). Having already established himself as a folk singer, Andy Griffith’s musical background dovetailed nicely into his role as guitar-strumming Andy Taylor.
Some original songs were written by Earle Hagen, the show’s music director. Hagen wrote music for numerous TV series, including Make Room For Daddy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Gomer Pyle, USMC. Earle is the one you hear whistling at the beginning of each Andy Griffith Show episode.
By the way, “The Fishing Hole” theme song has lyrics. Earle Hagen co-wrote the tune with Herbert Spencer, but later, in season two, actor Everett Sloane (playing Jubal Foster), decided the song needed words. Andy Griffith sang and recorded the song, though it was never performed on the show.
Well, now, take down your fishin’ pole
and meet me at the fishin’ hole.
We may not get a bite all day,
but don’t you rush away.
What a great place to rest your bones
and mighty fine for skippin’ stones.
You’ll feel fresh as a lemonade,
a-settin’ in the shade.
In one episode, Clara and Aunt Bee compose a tribute to Mayberry. And of course, Barney Fife is constantly trying to prove his worth, even in the world of music.
Andy: What would you do if they asked you to sing a capella?
Barney: Well, I’d DO it! (snaps his fingers, sings to the tune
of “La Cucaracha”)
A capella, a capella …
Barney has taken voice lessons through the years and is hoping to be picked for the choir concert solo. Unfortunately, the director is captivated by Gomer Pyle’s (Jim Nabors) rendition of “Santa Lucia” and gives him the solo instead. In spite of the fact that Barney’s voice trainer had given him an A in breathing.
“Can you tell a bird to talk?
Can you tell a bird to just go chirp, chirp, chirp?
No, Andy, I’m like a bird. I was born to sing.”
Not only does Barney not get the solo, but in another episode, Andy has to think of a way to keep Barney in the choir without making everybody else sound bad.
Singing isn’t enough. Barney tries his hand at songwriting, too: “The Ballad of Andy and Barney” (or “The Gangster’s Mistake” to the tune of “Frankie and Johnny”).
“Andy and Barney were lawmen
Bravest you ever did see
Warned every crook in the record book
To stay out of Mayber-ry
They were the law.”
Andy is not impressed. Even before he knows Barney penned it.
Later, Barney writes another ballad to the tune of “Clementine”:
“In a jailhouse down in Dixie
Fightin’ crime and riskin’ life
Dwelled a sheriff and his buddy
Pistol-packing Barney Fife. . .”
And so on . . . to the refrain and more verses. Then Andy sneaks up behind him and adds his own stanza to the “Clementine” tune:
“Oh my Barney, oh my Barney
Had a jail and couldn’t lock it
Had one bullet for his pistol
Had to keep it in his pocket.”
So there you go! The incredible Andy-Barney duo, the heart of Mayberry.
Meet fans from all over in the The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club (TAFSRWC), with various chapters country-wide.
Books about the Show:
Inside Mayberry: “The Andy Griffith Show” Handbook by Dan Harrison & Bill Habeeb.
The Andy Griffith Show Book by Richard Kelly.
Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show by Daniel de Vise.
Are there any other favorite Andy Griffith Show memories or nostalgia–musical or otherwise–you want to share?
I’d love to hear from you!
P.S. Coming in a few weeks: meet a guitarist who plays bluegrass music!
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