Andy Griffith certainly did not come to fame with The Andy Griffith Show. He did not even come to fame with No Time for Sergeants or A Face in the Crowd. Instead his first brush with fame came with a comedy routine released in 1953, entitled "What It Was, Was Football."
Andy Griffith began his career as a monologist, telling humorous stories of the sort he sometimes did on The Andy Grffith Show. In the early Fifties what well may have been his most popular monologue was "What It Was, Was Football." It is simply a description of a college football game by a simple country bumpkin, who has not only never seen football, but has apparently never even heard of the game. Griffith recorded "What It Was, Was Football" in 1953 in Raleigh, North Carolina and credited to "Deacon Andy Griffith." It was released later that year by Capitol Records. The single proved to be a hit, selling 800,000 copies.
"What It Was, Was Football" essentially made Andy Griffith a celebrity. Largely due to its popularity, he appeared on The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Ed Sullivan Show, and The Steve Allen Show. Two years after the release of the routine, Andy Griffith was performing on Broadway in No Time for Sergeants.
"What It Was, Was Football" has also proven to be one of the most enduring comedy routines of all time. It was printed in full in Mad Magazine #40, July 1958, with art by George Woodbridge. "What It Was, Was Football" was adapted as a comedy short directed by Duncan Brantley in 1997.
I cannot remember the first time I ever heard "What It Was, Was Football." When I was growing up it was still widely played on radio stations of all formats, particularly during football season. As a kid I thought it was one of the funniest things I ever heard, and certainly Andy Griffith's best monologue of all time. Apparently I wasn't the only one. "What It Was, Was Football" is still played during football season on radio stations, and references to it are still plentiful in the media. In the end, along with Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First" and George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words," it has proven to be one of the most enduring comedy routines of all time.