Aneta Corsaut named this Mayberry character after a friend, who turned around and sued the show
The real Phil Sunkel was a hip trumpet player, too.
Read to Me
Mayberry is about the last place you'd expect to find a hipster, but sure enough, a hep cat strolled into town once and again. In the Andy Griffith Show episode "The Mayberry Band," Mayor Roy Stoner finds the Mayberry Band to be in a despicable state. He considers the marching band the worst in the entire state of North Carolina — and a disgrace to the good name of Mayberry. In Mayor Stoner's defense, the musicians do stumble through "Stars and Stripes Forever" in a rather atonal manner.
But Andy has a plan. You see, traveling rock-and-rollers Freddy Fleet and his band happen to be passing through town on tour. So Sheriff Andy enlists them as ringers in the Mayberry Band.
One of the touring musicians, in particular, gets a good amount of screen time (and laughs). Like Maynard G. Krebs of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, the fellow is a certain breed of beatnik jazz head. This trumpet player sports a Van Dyke goatee and spouts lines like, "Don't worry about it, daddy." When Barney meets him and offers to shake his hand, this city slicker gives Barney "some skin." That's a musician's handshake, though it looks more like a complicated palm massage.
Anyway, this hipster trades in his cardigan for epaulets and joins the Mayberry Band. When the assembled band with its ringers lines up to practice in the street, this dude needs no sheet music. He tells Andy he'll "read his lips" instead.
The name of this horn blower is Phil Sunkel. Aneta Corsaut, who portrayed schoolteacher and love interest Helen Crump on the show, named the character. She suggested the name to screenwriter Jim Fritzell in tribute to a friend of hers.
You see, Corsaut happened to know a cool jazz horn player named Phil Sunkel. Wouldn't it be a cute honor to have this television character named after him?
Well, the real Phil Sunkel did not find it so amusing. Actually, according to sources, Sunkel sued The Andy Griffith Show for $20,000 (about $180,000 today) for using his name without permission. The producers ended up settling with the jazz musician for $5,000. We suppose that's what you call a "Sunkel" cost. Corsaut, reportedly, was in anguish over the ordeal.
The real Phil Sunkel was a trumpet player from Ohio, who recorded swing and cool jazz predominantly in the 1950s. Phil Sunkel's Jazz Band released its lone LP, Every Morning I Listen To...., in 1956. Two years later, jazzers Gerry Mulligan and Bob Brookmeyer collaborated on an album called Play Phil Sunkel's Jazz Concerto Grosso. Sunkel also played trumpet alongside such greats as Gil Evans and Stan Getz.
He did not, however, ever join a community marching band headed for Raleigh. His loss. Well, his gain, we suppose. Five grand, to be exact.