Andy Griffith got his start earning $35 and performing at banks
The actor returned to North Carolina for a hero's welcome in 1958.
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In the summer of 1958, Andy Griffith returned home to a hero's welcome. It was the 4th of July weekend, and the rising star crossed the country for the Southern premiere of his new movie, No Time for Sergeants. The funny film was making its regional debut in North Carolina, Griffith's home state.
To honor the occasion, Governor Luther Hodges and Raleigh Mayor W.G. Enloe shook hands with the young actor, who was dressed in a white suit, like any true Southern gentleman on a hot day. An Army band marched down the street. A color guard twirled their flags. Young women waved from a parade float. A local boy was starring in a hit military comedy and people wanted to celebrate.
A reporter from nearby Rocky Mount was there to cover the extravagant affair for The Rocky Mount Telegram. He sat down and interviewed Griffith, who had ties to Rocky Mount, which lies about 200 miles east of his hometown, Mt. Airy.
"I hope the people in Kay Kyser's hometown like 'No Time for Sergeants' — especially the folks at Planters Bank," Griffith said. Kay Kyser was a bandleader who became a big name in radio in the 1930 and 1940s. Planters Bank, on the other hand, held a special place in Griffith's heart.
"[The] local bank gave him a job in 1952 by having him entertain at their Christmas part," the Telegram wrote. Imagine the bragging rights those bank employees must have had years later when The Andy Griffith Show was all the rage.
"Clifton Beckwith gave Griffith one of his first jobs as an entertainer after he stopped teaching in the Goldsboro High School," the paper explained. "For this job Griffith received $35; about six months later he was earning $3,600 a week in Las Vegas." Yep, Griffith taught English and Drama at Goldsboro High for a couple of years.
Griffith explained the secret to his unlikely rise. "Even in this interview, Andy Griffith spoke English in the slow Southern drawl which characterize him," the reporter noted.
"First, you gotta have something that people'll buy," Andy said. "And then ya gotta work to sell yourself as a product."
There are other interesting tidbits in their early profile and interview of the relative newcomer. Andy sits and confers with his manager, Richard O. Linke (who the paper mistakenly called "Dick Linker"). The two discuss an upcoming movie tentatively titled Thunder Creek.
"It ain't ah Western, just that title makes it sound like hit [sic]," Andy said. "We're gona [sic] have to change that title; sounds too much like 'Thunder Road'." Yes, the reporter really leaned into transcribing Griffith's accent.
Now, what's interesting is that this "fourth movie" that Andy and his manager discuss was never called Thunder Creek. He would not make another movie for three years, until the Debbie Reynolds picture The Second Time Around — which was a Western. We wonder what flick Andy might have been talking about. Whatever the case, he was soon tied up in television.
The article ends by telling readers some Griffith family news. "He and [his wife] Barbara have recently adopted a baby boy." That would have been Andy Samuel "Sam" Griffith Jr.