Early in his career, Andy Griffith was always billed as Deacon Andy Griffith

Throughout the '50s, Griffith was known as "Deacon" to the public.

The Everett Collection

Everybody knows the name Andy Griffith. He's what you call a household name. Some might know him as Sheriff Andy or Matlock. 

Far fewer know him as "Deacon." Your memory has to reach back 70 years to know the North Carolina comedian by that monicker. But early in his career, Griffith was referred to in public as "Deacon Andy Griffith."

No, he was not a preacher, but he did play one. The Mount Airy native first came to fame thanks to his funny monologues and country-fried one-man shows. The most popular one, by far, which you are most likely to be familiar with, is "What It Was, Was Football," which was released as a 45 single in 1953 by Capitol Records. The spoken word bit climbed all the way to No. 9 on the Billboard pop charts in 1954. Yes, it was a different time.

In the routine, Griffith portrayed a hillbilly preacher who witnesses his first-ever football game. The sport seems strange and alien to the yokel. The record was credited to "Deacon Andy Griffith."

It was not his only monologue released to the pop market. A double-sided "Romeo and Juliet" single followed, also credited to Deacon Andy Griffith. A year later, when Griffith dropped his "Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So)" single, the newspapers still called him Deacon. "Thus begins Deacon Andy Griffith's latest record release," The Charlotte Observer wrote in 1955.

Still, the following year, even as his serious acting was taking off, Griffith could not shake the "Deacon" persona. In a news blurb about the start of production on A Face in the Crowd (called "The Face in the Crowd" by the paper), the Nashville Banner wrote, "The film includes Jud Collins, Eddie Hill, 'Deacon Andy' Griffith in the cast." Just look at the clippings.

The public just knew Griffith as "Deacon Andy." It was not a title he would truly shake until he became Mayberry's sheriff. As late as 1958 and 1959, shortly before The Andy Griffith Show began as a spin-off of The Danny Thomas Show, regional papers were referring to him as "Deacon Andy Griffith."

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Walt 18 months ago
This story puts me in the mood to get out my copy of Deacon Andy Griffith's 45 single and take it for a spin on my phonograph.
AlanRamsey 18 months ago
Actually, the use of "Deacon" wasn't that odd in 50's comedy, when referring to a comedian, usually a Southern one, such as "Brother" Dave Gardner.
Andybandit 18 months ago
Cool story. I never knew that about Andy Griffith.
DethBiz 18 months ago
Jim Miller was billed as a Deacon as well. See how well that went.
BOSSC351 18 months ago
The "Deacon" title is nothing more than a producers marketing ploy. This gave the relatively unknown Andy Griffith the appearance of being wholesome or appear as a godly man. This would ingratiate him into households and groups whose beliefs prohibited them from buying or listening to "filth" or that which satan was using as a temptation to draw in unwittingly followers. What better marketing than to use a church elder title to avoid all that. Even in later years we find out Griffith's darker acting side which totally imploded the wholesome good ole country boy theme his handlers had built and fortified in diamond casing. Just goes to show you that no matter what smoke and mirror acts are shown on the big screen and TV, they are just acts. Pretend. If you can't see through the posh and polished profiles cooked up for your consumption on TV then you have big problems with reality.
BOSSC351 18 months ago
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BOSSC351 18 months ago
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daDoctah 18 months ago
An adaptation of his "Romeo and Juliet" routine appears in one of the early episodes of his TV show, when a couple of young'uns from a pair of feuding families manage to fall in love with each other.
kimmer 18 months ago
What great bits of trivia....ty MEtv!!
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