Jim Nabors Dies; Former Sitcom Star Was 87
Jim Nabors, best known for having starred as Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show and then on his own spinoff, died at his home in Hawaii on Thursday morning.
He was 87 years old.
Hawaii News Now has confirmed this sad piece of news.
Nabors was born in Alabama and actually recorded over two dozen albums, having established a loyal music following as a result of his deep, operative voice.
It often took people by surprise, considering the Southern accent he used on television, along with what became his quasi catchphrase of Gawwwleee.
For a number of years, Nabors also sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” for the opening ceremonies for the Indianapolis 500.
In the early 1960s, the artist was a regular performer at The Horn – a cabaret theater on Wilshire Boulevard – when he was spotted by Andy Griffith.
The actor believed Nabors would be ideal to portray a new character on his CBS sitcom; a dim-witted mechanic named Gomer Pyle.
Gomer worked at Wally’s filling station in Mayberry and was a cousin of George Lindsey’s Goober.
Nabors was signed for just one Season 3 episode, which aired in December of 1962.
But the character and the actor proved to be so popular that Nabors ended up appearing in a total of 23 installments.
His aforementioned signature saying sprang from a discussion in which Gomer extolled the sophistication of Don Knotts’ Barney Fife:
“Gawwwleee! He’s even been out with some nurses,” he said.
On the Season 4 finale, the character enlisted in the Marines, paving the way for Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., which premiere in September of 1964 and ran for a total of five seasons before concluding in 1969.
The actor would end up reprising the role nearly 20 years later, in the 1986 TV-movie Return to Mayberry.
Nabors retired from acting near the peak of his popularity.
“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 hang up Pyle’s fatigues and host a variety show.
“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.”
Nabors last sang at the Indy500 in 2015.
May he rest in peace.