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Mix Blog: Pardon Me, I Didn’t Know You Strang

Taking a break from the road, Steve La Cerra discovers that Andy Griffith — yes, that Andy Griffith — could really lay it down.

My mom has been on a kick lately watching old reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. If you’re not of a certain age, you may not recall that Andy Griffith played Andy Taylor, sheriff of a small town called Mayberry. Younger folks would probably recognize the name of the little fellow who played Taylor’s son, Opie—Ron Howard—who made his acting debut at the ripe old age of 18 months and was practically a seasoned pro by the time he assumed the role at six years of age.

I vaguely recall watching the show when I was a child but didn’t realize at the time that the show weaves a mild current of morality throughout, and one of the things that still holds up is Sheriff Taylor’s gentle demeanor when dealing with his son, the residents of Mayberry (including the town drunk, Otis, who often locks himself in the jail when he’s had one too many), and the occasional con man who passes through town.

There are several episodes where Andy Griffith appears to play a pretty mean guitar—and if it doesn’t look like it’s “lip-synced,” that’s because it’s not. When I dropped in on mom last night, she was watching an episode called “The Darlings Are Coming,” the story of a family band called The Darlings who get kicked out of the local Mayberry hotel for exceeding the maximum occupancy of a room, and end up in Sheriff Taylor’s jail. I’ll let you unwrap the shenanigans on your own, but the episode culminates in a late-night jailhouse jam session with The Darlings and Sheriff Taylor laying it down, serious.

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Naturally, I had to do some Googling. It turns out that The Darlings were, in reality, an American bluegrass band from Salem, Mo., called The Dillards—a band quite familiar to fans of the genre. But it was their appearances on The Andy Griffith Show that brought them before millions of television viewers across the U.S. The Dillards also appeared in an episode called “Briscoe Declares for Aunt Bee,” in which they performed “Feudin’ Banjos” (more popularly known as “Dueling Banjos”) with Griffith.

Griffith himself was certainly no slouch in the music department. During high school, he learned to sing and play trombone, and later became an accomplished guitar player and gospel singer. He can be seen playing a 1956 Martin D-18 in several episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, a guitar which was not a prop but was his personal instrument for more than 50 years.

As a gospel singer, Griffith recorded more than a dozen albums and won a Grammy Award in 1997 for Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album for his record I Love to Tell the Story – 25 Timeless Hymns.

You can see and hear to The Dillards and Griffith delivering some serious chickin’ pickin’ sans overdubs or studio trickery, here. Mom will love it, too.