Thursday, July 19, 2012


When old Andy Griffith died of the heart attack he was expecting any day, he was at peace knowing his main request would be carried out: his body carried off to be buried FAST. No memorial. No idiot fans driving in with their SUV's and trucks and waiting for a glimpse of Ron Howard in black or Jim Nabors in maroon.

Within five hours, Griffith was planted and obits on the TV news focused on how great his folksy sitcom was, how foxy "Matlock" was, and that a long time ago he was on Broadway in "No Time for Sergeants."

Largely forgotten was Andy's roots as a stand-up comic and novelty singer (beware...the ping pong song is coming!). Also rarely mentioned were movie roles closer to his own nature than the ever-smiling and patient Andy Taylor. Watch "Face in the Crowd," "Strangers in 7A" or "Murder in Coweta County," (his bald head in one scene was Photoshopped into the ping pong picture above)

Andy, who bore with religious faith and stoic humility the every day pain caused by Guillain-Barré Syndrome, made his exit from the entertainment world a touching and memorable one via his supporting role in "The Waitress," written by Adrienne Shelly. His film character turns out to be more wise than foolish, and more humanly cranky than comical. Shelly, by the way, did not have the long life Andy Griffith did. This rising star, who could write, direct and act, was killed before her film was released. She was the victim of an illegal-alien sub-human. The monkey-man was doing some cheap labor involving endless noisy hammering, and when Shelly came downstairs to ask when he'd be stopping, he killed her. Then he clumsily hung her body up to make it look like suicide. He's now in prison costing taxpayers more than the average person makes a year. Probably a half-dozen people born in the U.S.A. and needing just a little help with food or rent, are denied benefits that could lead them to self-succifiency because the money's going to cage an illegal alien monkey instead. End of digression. Time for freeee muuuuuuusic.

Below are examples of Mr. Griffith that, until now, you had no idea existed. "St. James Infirmary" reflects the tradition of the nightclub entertainer circa 1958. Like his contemporary, jazz-hipster Southern comic Brother Dave Gardner, when Andy performed, he was expected to joke around, do some set routines, and offer up a bunch of songs. Here's Andy doing his then-popular country-rube-comic bit (several notches cornier than what he'd use as Sheriff Taylor of Mayberry) before vamping into a jazz-country take on the venerable blues classic.

As for "The Whistling Ping Pong Game," maybe some Demento-heads will recognize this comic style as a horrid hybrid homage to Leroy "Syncopated Clock" Anderson, or Fred Lowery meets "Nola," or yet another one-joke one-word musical novelty that made failures of "Very Interesting" (in both the Jackie Kannon and Arte Johnson versions). To put it another way, if this thing was in stereo (persuasive percussion) it would be a "lounge" classic, cheered by the same WFMU (Weird, Fucked-Musically-Up) people who wet themselves over a download of an old Marty Gold record (in STEREO, dammit!)

Yes, Andy's musical-novelty work is a small forgotten part of his long and beloved career. That's why it's being remembered here. And it may be hard to forget these two songs after you've heard 'em!

Andy's comedy intro and song ST JAMES INFIRMARY

Andy Griffith Whistling Ping Pong Game

1 comment:

AimlessInLA said...

There does exist a Martin Andy Griffith signature guitar model. A lot of guitar players probably know that but I'd never actually heard a sample of his music. Thanks for sharing!