The first step in writing a good biography is to know one’s subject. Dick Leach knew the late Andy Griffith “up close” for a number of years, and he painted, at our September Men’s Breakfast, a meticulously accurate and laughingly lovable portrait of his childhood Mt. Airy friend.
He told us about Carl and Geneva Griffith, who married and moved into a one-room home where they had a son named Andrew and lived until Andy was about five. They then moved to a house, near the furniture factory, made for factory employees. Dick Leach lived in a factory house nearby. Dick and Andy became friends.
Influenced by a Moravian minister, Andy became interested in music, then the ministry. He came to Carolina to study music, English, and pre-ministerial courses. He joined the Playmakers, a group of like-minded students who spent summers as actors in “The Lost Colony” at Manteo, and at the end of his freshman year, changed his major to music and theater.
While at Carolina, Andy met and fell in love with fellow Playmakers Cast member Barbara Edwards. Upon graduation, they married. Shortly afterwards, they formed an entertainment company offering to entertain at community and civic outings. Andy and Barbara sang and Andy did original comedy “bits.” One of his comedy routines was “What it Was, Was Football.” This was later recorded and sold throughout the Southeast.
Carolina Meadows resident Dick Leach remembers his friend Andy Griffith. Photo by Joe Mengel.
Capital Records bought the rights to record it for national distribution. It sold over a million copies. Capital put Andy under contract. Andy appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. He had never appeared on TV. His appearance, said Dick Leach, did not go well. He was booked on the Southern Night Club Circuit to acquire more experience. It worked!! His next call was to Broadway where he starred in two Broadway shows: “Destry Rides Again” and “No Time for Sargeants,” The first did OK. The last was a major hit.
(At this point there was a pause in Dick’s presentation in which Melissa Pope played Andy’s comedy routine “Cleopatra.” A room full of men laughed until they cried.)
“No Time for Sergeants” was such a hit that Hollywood bought the rights to make a movie. Andy starred in the movie. He made other movies, but “No Time for Sergeants” was the big hit. After the movies, Andy was hired by Danny Thomas to make a TV pilot about a sheriff in a small town in the South. It became a big hit known as “Mayberry RFD.” The name later changed to “The Andy Griffith Show.” After a number of successful years, Andy left the show and shortly appeared in another TV show about a lawyer named “Matlock,” which actually inspired me as a young practicing lawyer.
Dick ended his talk by having Melissa play “What it Was, Was Football,” whereupon more hilarity ensued.
From resident Public Relations Committee member Paul Hardin