Mayberry R.F.D. was a twist and turn in Ken Berry's life
Image credit: The Everett Collection
Prior to Mayberry R.F.D., if Ken Berry had his way, he would've followed in the footsteps of his inspirations, such as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. He would have been selling out shows being solely a song-and-dance man.
During his time as Sam Jones on Mayberry R.F.D.; however, there was no other job or any other set he wanted to be at. According to a 1968 interview with The News Tribune, Berry considered Mayberry R.F.D. to be another twist and turn in his life.
Even though Berry had originally envisioned his life going in a different direction, replacing Andy Griffith became the forefront of his mind. It's a pretty big job, so he knew it was best to focus on it.
"Right now, I'd be happy if Mayberry ran for the next 20 years," Berry said. "I no longer have aspirations to be a superstar or famous dancer. In fact, I've got a rehearsal hall down in the basement of my house and I never even go down there to practice my dancing at all."
Berry not only found a love for acting, he also enjoyed coming to work. Many actors find the work-life balance difficult, especially while supporting a family. Berry was different; He would even come to work just for fun. He said: "I really love the grind of a weekly series."
Berry had been dedicated to his song-and-dance dream since he was 10, which says a lot about Mayberry's warm welcome. Berry stayed the series' lead actor for the entire three seasons on air.
Prior to Mayberry R.F.D., Berry had been seen across classic TV. He was best known for his role as Capt. Wilton Parmenter in The F-Troop. When Mayberry R.F.D. aired in 1968, he became an even bigger name with audiences nationwide. Replacing a star like Griffith will give you that sort of notoriety.
In another 1968 interview with The Fort Lauderdale News, Berry said the producers of Mayberry R.F.D. hoped his story would feel much like The Dick Van Dyke Show. Many thought Berry and Dick Van Dyke were from the same mold. Berry's only note: He wasn't trying to do anything like Andy Griffith.
"Once the audiences tune in to this type, they get to know him and stay with him," Berry said. "And every time someone new tunes in they stay, too. It's a constant growth pattern. The size of the audience just keeps getting bigger and bigger."
Part of the reason Berry was able to walk away from his long-held dream of being a dancer was because of his coworkers on Mayberry R.F.D. Walking into a room full of unique Mayberry characters, including Aunt Bee and Goober, must have been a good enough welcome for Berry to stay in the town.
"Those guys are real stars," Barry said of his co-stars. "I sometimes wonder what it is like to be that popular."
Berry may have given up on a part of his dream in Hollywood, but what he got in return would change the course of his acting career forever. Plus, the perks of living in Mayberry couldn't have been too bad.
"Some people think a series like Mayberry is a snap, but nothing in this world is a snap unless you want it to be," Berry said. "I work hard at this show because I want it to be as good as possible. Just good isn't enough."