Andy Griffith carved a musical imprint, too

LOS ANGELES — Andy Griffith, easily recognized for his iconic portrayal of the good-natured and affable sheriff of Mayberry in the classic 1960s sitcom “The Andy Griffith Show,” and an attorney in the successful series “Matlock,” is threaded into the DNA of television. But any celebration of his life in entertainment would be remiss without a focus on his musical contributions.

Before he stepped in front of the camera, Griffith was a high school music teacher in Goldsboro, N.C., putting to good use a music degree he earned from the University of North Carolina. Believe it or not, he was the president of the UNC Men’s Glee Club, decades before Fox made the “Glee” club seem at least semi-cool.

As with plenty of musicians who came before — and after — Griffith initially abandoned his dreams of becoming a singer after an audition didn’t go well.

But he got over that pretty quickly. Many of his TV fans probably only knew Griffith’s voice when he occasionally flexed his pipes on “Matlock” and “The Andy Griffith Show” (also in his breakout film “A Face in the Crowd”). But Andy Griffith the recording star is a role he took just as serious as his acting career.

During his time on “The Andy Griffith Show,” he made a country/ gospel album, one of more than a dozen music albums in his life, and also reworked the show’s famous theme song.

Griffith issued the bulk of his recordings in the mid- to late ‘90s. Hymns rooted in Southern gospel inspired him the most, and a majority of his albums were built around those standards — 1996’s “I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns” was even certified platinum.

His last album was 2003’s “The Christmas Guest: Stories and Songs of Christmas.” On the album, released through Sparrow Records, Griffith combined traditional Christmas stories with interpretations of holiday standards.

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Dennis McLellan contributed to this report.

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©2012 Los Angeles Times

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Comments » 1

08backintn writes:

So sorry to hear the news of Andy Griffith passing. I was so lucky to have met Andy on the set of Matlock in 1989. He was wearing that seersucker suit, he sook hands with all the persons there. What a great guy and smart ! I will never forget him.

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