Mayberry's Ken Berry couldn't believe he would replace Andy Griffith
Image credit: The Everett Collection
After The Andy Griffith Show ended in 1968, the quaint town of Mayberry went dark. Many viewers had considered the series and its usual suspects to be a second home. With a new job opening in Mayberry, Ken Berry came to save the day.
Berry had big shoes to fill when it came to replacing Andy Griffith, but luckily, his years of being trained in theater and dance helped him develop quick feet. Movie musicals were Berry's big career goal before becoming a sitcom actor.
In a 1969 interview with The Gettysburg Times, Berry said he trained tirelessly to become a professional dancer, only to have the era pass him by. Once he moved to Hollywood in the 1950s, he had missed his opportunity.
Television was quickly changing, and song-and-dance men like Berry just weren't in demand.
Whenever Berry was on a variety show like The Carol Burnett Show, most people were shocked by how well the star could sing and dance. His early idols included: Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor.
He did not surprise those in the entertainment industry, though. They had been watching Berry's quiet confidence and success on the stage for quite some time.
Berry was introduced in season eight of The Andy Griffith Show as Sam Jones, a local farmer who would eventually be elected to the Mayberry town council. He would keep the role of Sam for Mayberry R.F.D., too.
So, how confident was Ken Berry about Mayberry R.F.D's success? Turns out, not too confident at all. Replacing a star like Griffith would be intimidating for anyone, especially for Berry, whose strong suit was a pair of tap shoes.
"If they think they are getting another Andy Griffith, they're going to be disappointed," Berry said in a 1968 interview with Lubock-Avalanche Journal. "I'm not anything like Andy. I won't even have a Southern accent. But then, several of the characters in the series don't have accents, and no one seems to notice."
Only a few of the original cast joined Berry for Mayberry R.F.D: George Lindsey (Goober) and Frances Bavier (Aunt Bee), to name a few.
Despite his lack of confidence in replacing Andy Griffith, he handled it with grace, as a great dancer would.
"Originally, it was planned for me to bring Mayberry a family of Italian farmers I had met while in the service," Berry said. "Now that we've done the show, I understand the family won't be used after all, just one Italian."