Jim Nabors, The Cheerful Gomer Pyle On Two TV Series, Dies At 87

Jim-nabors-image

Jim Nabors, who starred as Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show and on his own sitcom before retiring the wide-eyed, countrified character at the height of his popularity, has died. He was 87. jim-nabors

Nabors died at his home in Hawaii on Thursday morning, his longtime partner told the Associated Press.

 

A native of Alabama, Nabors also recorded more than two dozen albums with a rich, operatic baritone voice that surprised those who were used to hearing him exclaim “Gawwwleee!” with a Southern twang on television. For many years, Nabors sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” during the opening ceremonies for the Indianapolis 500.

 

In the early 1960s, Nabors was a regular performer at The Horn, a cabaret theater on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica that showcased new talent, when he was spotted by Andy Griffith, who thought Nabors would be perfect to play a new character on his CBS sitcom. That would be Gomer, a dim-witted, affable mechanic at Wally’s filling station in Mayberry and a cousin of Goober (George Lindsey).471px-Jim_Nabors_Frank_Sutton_Gomer_Pyle_1966

 

Nabors was signed for just one episode, which aired midway through The Andy Griffith Show‘s third season in December 1962, but Gomer proved popular, and Nabors went on to appear in 23 installments of the series. One of his signature phrases sprang from a discussion in which Gomer extolled the sophistication of Don Knotts’ Barney Fife: “Gawwwleee! He’s even been out with some nurses.”

 

Nabors’ run on The Andy Griffith Show culminated with the fourth-season finale in which Gomer joins the U.S. Marines. (The episode also served as the pilot for the spinoff sitcom.)

 

With Pvt. Pyle being hounded by tough but caring drill sergeant Vince Carter (Frank Sutton), Gomer Pyle, USMC aired for five years (1964-69) on CBS and was a great success in the ratings — always in the top 10 and No. 2 in its final season — before the actor decided to pursue other activities, which included hosting his own variety show.

 

“It got down to what you think you want to be: an actor or an entertainer. I want to entertain,” Nabors said in 1969, when he decided to retire Pyle’s gear. “I don’t think I’m much of an actor. The only part I ever played was Gomer. I’m the most surprised person around that I’m successful anyway.”

 

He then showcased his singing and comedic talents on The Jim Nabors Hour, which lasted two seasons and featured some of his Gomer Pyle co-stars.

 

He did star opposite his pal Burt Reynolds in such fare as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), Stroker Ace (1983) and as “Pvt. Homer Lyle” in Cannonball Run II (1984).

 

Nabors also showed up as a beatnik in Take Her, She’s Mine (1963), starring James Stewart and Sandra Dee. His voice was dubbed in the film.

271882-jim-nabors

In the 1970s, Nabors starred with Ruth Buzzi as time-traveling androids on the ABC series The Lost Saucer, produced by Sid and Marty Krofft, and hosted his own syndicated talk show.

He was back as Gomer for the 1986 NBC reunion movie Return to Mayberry.

 

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP
Follow us on Twitter @HighlightHwd or @LightfootinHwd