The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club helped keep Mayberry alive for future generations

What started in a fraternity house led to a reunion movie.

The Everett Collection

It was not your typical frat party. The year was 1979, and a group of Vanderbilt University students gathered before the television in the Phi Kappa Sigma house. Jim Clark, a North Carolina kid attending the Nashville school, put the club together. Forget beer pong and togas. These college guys were going to Mayberry. They were dedicated viewers of The Andy Griffith Show.

"It started out tongue in cheek but it really caught on," Clark told the Associated Press in 1983. "I was surprised at how many people were fanatics about it like I am."

Clark grew up watching the wholesome sitcom, set in a fictional town near his own home. "They were more than just jokes, one-liners. There was almost always a moral."

After graduating, Clark was working as a waiter in Nashville. But he kept his Andy Griffith Show club going. It was more than just watching tapes of old episodes.

"When a station takes it off the air, we write them," the 23-year-old explained. He also published a newsletter titled The Bullet three times each year. Clark claimed some famous members of his club, including cable magnate Ted Turner, country rockers the Oak Ridge Boys, the governor of North Carolina — and even castmembers Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, and Jack Dodson.

At that time, in 1983, Clark's faction was one of 15 chapters of the Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club nationwide. The AGSRWC counted 1,000 members. There was a "Kerosene Cucumbers" branch run by preachers in North Carolina. The Otis Campbell Chapter — named after the town drunk of Mayberry — in Mississippi touted 300 members. A woman named Debbie in Ohio paid a dollar to join her local chapter. It was a no-brainer for her. She named her dog Opie Taylor and her parrot Barney Fife.

In 1986, fellows from the Mayberry Union High chapter in Longview, Texas, spoke to the AP about their fandom. 

"I saw a story about the fan club in The Dallas Morning News," Mayberry Union High founder Ronnie Morrison said. "We then got a charter." Morrison had 25 tapes of the show, recorded on a VCR.

This was the state of TV fandom before the internet — word of mouth, newspaper profiles, and lots of dubbing with VHS tapes. Morrison had a goal of grabbing every single episode off the airwaves. "My family gives me a hard time with where I'm going to store all my Andy Griffith tapes," Morrison joked. Ah, the storage conundrums of pre-streaming.

In just three years, the AGSRWC has ballooned to 12,000 members around the world. The mission remained clear — keep Mayberry on the air. (Well, and watch The Andy Griffith Show as frequently as possible.)

"Our purpose is to keep it on the air," Morrison said. His chapter took a kind approach, like the folks in Mayberry might. They wrote stations thanking them for airing the sitcom, and sent letters to sponsors, expressing their gratitude.

Morrison credited Jim Clark, that kid from Vanderbilt, for convincing networks to reunite the cast of The Andy Griffith Show for a reunion movie. 

"I'm convinced the actions of Jim Clark and this club is what got NBC interested in the reunion show," Morrison said of Return to Mayberry, which premiered in 1986. "It was the driving force of the movie and its success. They're supposedly making a second one."

Well, they never did make a second one. But The Andy Griffith Show remains a cherished part of American television viewing to this day. Thanks to the dedication of its fans.

Watch The Andy Griffith Show on MeTV!

Weeknights at 8 & 8:30, Sundays at 6 & 6:30 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
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UTZAAKE 28 months ago
From the same university that gave us Jay Cutler and his deadpan.
john 28 months ago
I've seen every episode 785 times. That's all I've done for the last 30 years.
Bill 28 months ago
MeTv shows the entire TAGS episode; TVLAND does not. Each episode as originally broadcast had an epilogue, after the final commercial. TVLAND cuts out the epilogue, and also chops off the credits at the end. Why? To have more commercials. 😡👎 So watch TAGS on MeTV if you want to see the entire episode.
DZee Bill 26 months ago
Well yes...and no. While MeTV plays the epilogues and always plays the original closing with credits (something I really enjoy since hardly any other channel does that)... they too have edits during the show. TV Land & Sundance Channel also have cuts, but usually different cuts from each other.
Zip 28 months ago
For some reason I thought this was going to be about The Andy Griffith Rerun Watchers Club website, which is still going strong as well. I used to be a frequent poster over there on what is called "The Front Porch". Just a place to visit and hang out with friendly people.
If you happen to visit it, say that Sterling sent you. That was my name I used back on there. I haven't posted there in a while now, but I am sure most of the people I talked to there are still there.
Zip Zip 28 months ago
Boy, that's a lot of there's up there.
Andybandit 28 months ago
They can watch TAGS all the time on MeTv. It is getting annoying. Time to put something else on at 5pm-6pm in place of TAGS, and take of Full House.
Pacificsun Andybandit 28 months ago
Although MeTV can be OTA in some areas still not everyone has access to it.

I'm not a super fan, but timing in my area is about 8:00pm and find it a pleasant alternative to contemporary stuff. But agree new series would be interesting to rotate into the lineup, but they won't do it during primetime. Thank heavens for DVRs.
ETristanBooth 28 months ago
"This was the state of TV fandom before the internet — word of mouth, newspaper profiles, and lots of dubbing with VHS tapes."

Shortly after Jim Clark started TAGSRWC, I ran one of the chapters for about ten years. It was just like the description above. I eventually taped all of the episodes on VHS and generally played four at each monthly meeting. And the chapter was publicized in several local newspapers. We even had Don Knotts' nephew speak at one meeting, as he lived locally.
Pacificsun ETristanBooth 28 months ago
How cool, especially to hear from one of the original Chapter Leads. Don't forget the role of fanzines run by the members who supplied their own trivia, experiences, critiques, and local news. It was a nice way to interact with fellow interested folks!
ETristanBooth Pacificsun 28 months ago
I did meeting minutes for my members. It was just me typing up what happened at the last meeting and the date and location of the next (we rotated houses). I would photocopy it and mail it out.
Pacificsun ETristanBooth 28 months ago
Some fandoms got so deep into their shared interest, there was enough material to archived (like boxes and boxes of it all) at particular colleges. It turned into a historical society of sorts. Pretty nifty donation, and a slice of a generational interest within it's own setting of the times! (file under: grass roots Popular Culture)
justjeff 28 months ago let's start a "non-fan club" to have MeTV dump Monk, Full House and Saved by the Bell from its licenses and bring back *real* classics (availability permitting) like Naked City, Checkmate, Burns and Allen, Mr. Ed, My Favorite Martian, The Millionaire, Topper, etc.

I live in the past - I own a condo back there....LOL!
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vinman63 justjeff 28 months ago
I would rather see My Mother The Car over an episode of Saved By The Bell.
MikefromJersey vinman63 26 months ago
Hi vinman,
My Mother The Car was never as bad as it was made out to be. The premise was
inane but for a show aimed at kids Beaver Cleaver's age it was decent entertainment.
The title song was quite snappy, the car a thing of beauty, it was filmed in rich
colors and the prints available when it ran a few years ago on Antenna TV
(I think it was that station) were beautiful. That said, Jerry Van Dyke was
strictly a second banana and couldn't carry the star role, and it was so
skewed to the very young kid audience I could only watch a few episodes, any more
and I would have lost IQ points. But when it first aired, all the kids - and
me - loved it.
The theme was constantly sung when we were doing other kid stuff.
As for Saved By The Bell, it is crud but then again it's aimed square at
12 to 16 year olds not you and me.
vinman63 MikefromJersey 26 months ago
It followed a genre in the mid sixties of fantasy which entailed talking horse, witches, jinies, flying nuns, and martians.
MikefromJersey vinman63 26 months ago
I think the reason it unfairly became known as the all time worst show
is because the silly title became a easy punchline for comics and pundits.
Ted Danson's current sitcom Mr. Mayor is worse, a train wreck.
I still will tune in for a few minutes just to gaze in appalled amazement
that alleged 6th grade grads -hello Jethro Beaudine - put it on.
Producer Tina Fey must have made a bet that she could put on garbage
masked as clever commentary on LA and network honchos would
go along so as to seem to be "with it".
Danson clearly was blackmailed into appearing.
Joe Friday, Pete Malloy, please look into this and free Ted Danson.
JERRY6 28 months ago
i always watch the show every time it seems new , guess i've lost my mind
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Pacificsun justjeff 28 months ago
Just to expand the conversation, am not opposing you suggestions all at 😉 I wish they would!! I loved the NBC revolving Mystery Movies.

Weigel has the budget and clout to do whatever they wish. But the idea behind programming blocks (such as the format that H & I uses) is to keep fans in the habit of viewing especially at certain times of the day. Also to keep them viewing for consecutive hours. Because the principle behind doing so, is to make advertising very effective! They WANT those Ads to become so repetitious in a viewer's mind, that they can quote them (because people "try" to tune them out otherwise). I mean, look how many of us can quote that truly obnoxious Medicare ad with the celebrities as much as we hate it! That is, an absolute Advertisers dream commercial. Because they want a very dependable demographically appropriate segment of viewers to justify dropping as much as they do to run their ads!

Sad, but true.
bagandwallyfan80 justjeff 28 months ago
Gomer Pyle all seasons
1-5 are available on DVD.
vinman63 justjeff 26 months ago
Throw in the original Goldbergs, Soupy Sales, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee, Blondie, among others.
Pacificsun 28 months ago
It's true. Dedicated fans get under rated except for (perhaps) the novelty they generate in articles like this. And thankfully so. But they are the people putting in all that work (and it is work) for the love of the show, to keep it in the public eye. If they're very organized (and most are) they hold conventions to exchange experience and trivia and souvenirs. They literally breath life into a show that would've otherwise been pronounced dead with the final "cut." We can thank them for what we see on MeTV.
harlow1313 28 months ago
At its best, I quite like the show, but it has its share of clunker episodes. I like many of the oddball side characters.

Two of my favorite episodes are "Convicts at Large" and "Goober and the Art of Love."

As examples I dislike, "Irresistible Andy" and "Mayberry goes Hollywood."
MrsPhilHarris harlow1313 28 months ago
Three Wishes For Opie is one of my favs. Convicts At Large is a hoot.
The reason that MOOSE Barry Greenberg is a
COOL CHARACTER on Happy Days is because Moose did NOT go to the
Drag Race between Skizzy
And Fonzie and that means
that Moose did not get grounded like Richie and
Potsie and Moose(Barry Greenberg) got to dance
With a cute girl played by
Carey Williams.
Another Cool Character on
Happy Days is a guy with the name EUGENE BELVIN plUrf by DENIS MANDEL.
Eugene Belvin was also a smart guy. He forced Jenny
Piccalo )Cathy Silvers) to go on dates with him by telling Jenny that he would
tell Fonzie that Jenny Piccalo spread the Rumor
About Mikki(Crystal Bernard).
bagandwallyfan80 28 months ago
I wish that Peggy McMillan
(Joanna Moore)had stayed on
The Andy Griffith Show longer
than 4 episodes.
Ed Sawyer moved to Mayberry
because Mayberry was a town
that he liked but Ed Sawyer
Appeared on TSGS on episode
ONLY called Stranger In Town
From season one.
If Ed Sawyer) William Lanteau)
Really moved to Mayberry in
1960 then where was Ed Sawyer.
HIDING during the 8 years of
The Andy Griffith Show and 3
Years of Mayberry RFD?
He Ed Sawyer (William Lanteau ) was like Floyd the Barber (Walter Baldwin) A one episoder. Your question starts with "If"- Without watching the episode was is it ever firmly established in that "one" episode that he actually moved to Mayberry? If it wasn't then he wasn't hiding.
You are probably right about Ed Sawyer (William Lanteau). Even though Ed Sawyer said that he was
Going to move to Mayberry
Ed Sawyer might have change his mind and we back to the city he came
From (New York City) ..
The last time we saw Ed
Sawyer he was getting a haircut by Floyd number 1
Walter Baldwin .
Jack Larson who played
Jimmy Olsen on The Adventures of Superman
Played a Corporal named
Tommy for one episode only on Gomer Pyle USMC
And later Tommy Leonetti played Cpl Nick Cuccinelli
And Roy Stuart played Cpl
Boyle on Gomer Pyle USMC.
Zip bagandwallyfan80 28 months ago
You know how they cordially say, "Don't be a stranger." ?

I guess Ed Sawyer remained a stranger in town. Maybe that's why he was never seen again. Maybe he liked being "incognito."
bagandwallyfan80 Zip 28 months ago
Chuck Cunningham 1 Gavan O'Herlihy and Chuck Cunningham 2 Randolph Roberts vanished into thin air on Happy Days.
Characters Who Disapeared from TV Shows:
Happy Days
Chuck Cunningham 1 Gavan O'Herlihy
Chuck Cunningham 2 Randolph Roberts
MOOSE Barry Greenberg
Melvin Belvin Scott Bernstein
Wendy Misty Rowe
Trudy Tita Bell
Spike Danny Butch
Marsha Simms Beatrice Colen
Flip Phillips Billy Warlock
KC Cunningham Crystal Bernard
Gloria Linda Purl
Gomer Pyle USMC
Cpl Nick Cuccinelli Tommy Leonetti
Cpl Boyle Roy Stuart
Sgt Whipple :Buck Young
Pvt Frankie Lombardi:
Ted Bessell
bagandwallyfan80 Zip 28 months ago
Maybe ED SAWYER eloped
With Lucy Matthews and
that might be the reason
that viewers of TAGS Never
Saw Ed Sawyer (William Lanteau)and Lucy Mathews
(Marlene Willis) again.
Maybe ED SAWYER and
Lucy Matthews sent
Andy Taylor a Honeymoon
Postcard from Hooterville
Just curious do you have the episode in your collection, VHS, DVD?
You could watch it to see if they actually show him settling in Mayberry or if it's just suggested.
Then there would be no "maybe's". You could watch the episode when it comes on again on
MeTV, TV Land, or Pluto TV Channel 510. MeTV is in season 2 /TV Land is in season 4/ Not sure if Pluto follows the season schedule. Either way it will be a while before the "Stranger in Town" episode airs again. Just a thought.
Coldnorth LoveMETV22 26 months ago
I would never compete against some people in a Happy Days trivia game
Runeshaper 28 months ago
Fans can definitely make or break a show. It's AWESOME to see the fans of The Andy Griffith Show keeping the program alive (-:
WordsmithWorks 28 months ago
I wonder what other shows have such a devoted fan base.
LoveMETV22 WordsmithWorks 28 months ago
Star Trek had a strong fan base. I'm sure there are other (shows, movies) that have loyal followings.
Pacificsun WordsmithWorks 28 months ago
Nearly every classic retro series that you see on networks like MeTV. Just search on the internet to be connected.
Maverick66 28 months ago
TAGS will always be my favorite show (at least the first five seasons anyway - there are far fewer memorable episodes from the three color seasons).
LoveMETV22 28 months ago
Thank You MeTV, A very interesting story. Sounds like Jim Clark had a passion for TAGS with his efforts.
Certainly sounds like he had plenty of support with the notable individuals mentioned.
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 28 months ago
Some of these fan based organizations - especially - for series going back into the Sixties have turned into almost a form of a Historical Society. For example, in terms of collecting everything that's been written about the subject. Because they had to start out in hard copy form. And working with VHS taping was a little more complicated than what we have today. But, they made it work!
FrankensteinLover 28 months ago
This Is Great, rerun after rerun still watch it Daily and relive it in Mt Airy Nc. Some of the Episodes get Old but the Main Actors never do.
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