Thursday, November 30, 2017

Jim Nabors In Memoriam

Jim Nabors, the baritone singer best known for playing Gomer Pyle on both The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., died today at the age of 87.

Jim Nabors was born on June 12 1930 in Sylacauga, Alabama. He sang in the choir at his church and in the glee club at his high school. He also played the clarinet in his high school band. He earned a degree in business from the University of Alabama. After graduating Mr. Nabors moved to New York City where he worked as a typist at the United Nations. He then moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee where he worked as a film cutter at a local television station.

Because of his asthma Jim Nabors eventually moved to Los Angeles, California. Once there he became a film cutter at NBC. He also began performing at the Horn, a club in Santa Monica, California. Jim Nabors's monologue was based around a persona not too far removed from Gomer Pyle. He came to the notice of Bill Dana, who managed to get him on The New Steve Allen Show.

Andy Griffith also caught Jim Nabors's act at the Horn and thought he would be perfect for a guest appearance on The Andy Griffith Show. Jim Nabors made his first appearance as none-too-bright service station attendant Gomer Pyle in the episode "The Bank Job" on December 24 1962. Gomer Pyle proved so popular that Jim Nabors became one of the regulars on The Andy Griffith Show. In the 1962-1963 season he would also make guest appearance on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and I'm Dickens, He's Fenster.

It was at the start of the 1964-1965 season that Gomer Pyle was spun off into his own show, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. The show proved to be a hit and ran for five years, ending only because Jim Nabors wanted to move onto other things. It was also in the 1964-1965 season that Jim Nabors had a recurring role on the short lived sitcom Valentine's Day. During the Sixties, Jim Nabors guest starred as Gomer Pyle on The Lucy Show. He also guest starred on Off to See the Wizard. Mr. Nabors was able to show off his rich baritone on an episode of The Andy Griffith Show and sometimes appeared as a singer as well as a comedian and actor on variety and talk shows. In the Sixties he guest starred on such variety and talk shows as The Danny Kaye Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Joey Bishop Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Carol Burnett Show, The Leslie Uggams Show, and The Mike Douglas Show. In 1969 Jim Nabors received his own variety show, which ran until 1971. It was still doing well in the ratings when it was cancelled as part of the Rural Purge. He appeared in the film Take Her, She's Mine (1963).

As a singer Jim Nabors also had a fairly successful career. He released his first album, :Jim Nabors Sings Love Me With All Your Heart, in 1966. In all he released 28 albums.

In the Seventies Jim Nabors guest starred on such shows as The Ken Berry 'Wow' Show, The David Frost Show,The Flip Wilson Show, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, The Muppet Show, and Dinah!. He appeared in the first episode of the every season of The Carol Burnett Show,  Miss Burnett considering Mr. Nabors her good luck charm. He starred in the Saturday morning live-action show The Lost Saucer and in 1978 he had his own syndicated show, The Jim Nabors Show. He guest starred on The Rookies.

In the Eighties Jim Nabors appeared in the films The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), Stroker Ace (1983) and Cannonball Run II (1984). He reprised his role as Gomer Pyle in the reunion television movie Return to Mayberry in 1986. He guest starred on Knight Rider. In the Nineties Mr. Nabors appeared in a brief revival of The Carol Burnett Show. He guest starred as Gomer Pyle on an episode of Hi Honey, I'm Home.

Much of Jim Nabors's later career he spent touring and singing in nightclubs. From 1972 to 2014 he sang "Back Home Again in Indiana” at the Indianapolis 500 each year.

Jim Nabors was an enormous comic talent. It is with good reason that Gomer Pyle is the most famous character outside of Deputy Barney Fife (played by the great Don Knotts) to emerge from The Andy Griffith Show. Mr. Nabors played the often clueless Pyle with perfect timing and an honesty that made the gas station attendant and later Marine seem like a an authentic character. While Mr Nabors played Gomer for much of his career, not to mention many characters similar to Gomer, he was capable of much more. He was incredible in the skits in which he appeared on The Carol Burnett Show and his own variety show. Of course, Jim Nabors was also a great singer. He had an impressive baritone and made quite a good living as a singer, both recording albums and touring. As both a comedic genius and a very talented singer, Jim Nabors could well have been a great musical comedy star in film had he been born only a few years earlier. He may always be remembered as Gomer Pyle, but Mr. Nabors was much more.

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