Remembering Jim Nabors — Interesting Facts about the 'Andy Griffith Show' Star

Jim Nabors could deliver a performance that showed both insane intelligence or worrisome madness. Best known for his role in "The Andy Griffith Show," Nabor's life was as remarkable as his tv fame. 

Jim Nabors was born in Sylacauga, Alabama, on June 12, 1930, to Fred Nabors and Mavis Pearl. He had two older sisters, Freddie and Annie Ruth, who all grew up in Alabama. 

From a young age, Nabors began expressing himself through performance. He sang in high school and was a part of his church choir. After graduating from the University of Alabama, he got his start on the stage.

Jim Nabors smiles while filming "Gomer Pyle, USMC" on September 30, 1964 | Photo: Getty Images

Jim Nabors smiles while filming "Gomer Pyle, USMC" on September 30, 1964 | Photo: Getty Images

LIFE BEFORE HIS CAREER TOOK OFF

Nabors would do skits early on. However, his first job was as a typist for the United Nations in New York. A year later, Nabors moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and landed a job as a film cutter for NBC.

Due to his asthma, Nabors could not remain in Tennesee, so he moved to Los Angeles. He continued to pursue his love of entertainment and landed another job as NBC's assistant film editor. 

During his off-hours, Nabors sang and acted at various clubs. One of them was the famous Santa Monica nightclub, where Nabors showed off his ability to go from a high-pitched comedian to a baritone singer.

Jim Nabors at The Hollywood Palladium, March 7, 2004 in Hollywood, California. | Photo: Getty Images

Jim Nabors at The Hollywood Palladium, March 7, 2004 in Hollywood, California. | Photo: Getty Images

LANDING HIS MOST FAMOUS ROLE 

Bill Dana reportedly discovered him during one of his cabaret acts based loosely on an Andy Griffith scene. Nabors would later audition for Steve Allen and went on to appear on the latter's variety show numerous times. 

Soon enough, Andy Griffith took notice of Nabors' musical gimmick and created the part of Gomer Pyle on "The Andy Griffith Show." Pyle became a fan favorite with his signature phrases, "gawwleee" and "shazzayam." 

Nabors came on in the third season. After 26 episodes, Nabors left and got his show, "Gomer Pyle: USMC," in 1964. The show was a success, running for five seasons and turning Nabors into a household name.

Jim Nabors and Andy Griffith at the Hammerstein Ballroom November 02, 2003 in New York City. | Photo: Getty Images

Jim Nabors and Andy Griffith at the Hammerstein Ballroom November 02, 2003 in New York City. | Photo: Getty Images

GETTING HIS OWN VARIETY SHOW

When it ended, Nabors was financially well off enough to have the freedom to do what he wanted, like singing and Vegas shows. At the same time, he was somewhat typecasted because of his tv roles. 

Luckily, he landed his very own variety show in 1969. "The Jim Nabors Hour" saw Nabors singing with guests, doing comedy sketches, and, surprisingly, making even more money than his previous series. 

Jim Nabors at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. | Photo: Getty Images

Jim Nabors at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. | Photo: Getty Images

Unfortunately, the show abruptly ended in 1971 despite high ratings. Nabors did not slow down, though. He immediately began planning a summer tour of entertainment. 

GUEST APPEARANCES AND MOVIE ROLES

He also appeared on various shows, including "The Joey Bishop Show," "The Tonight Show," "The Dean Martin Show," "The David Frost Show," "The Lost Saucer," and "The Rookies." 

At various times between 1972 and 2014, Nabors performed with the Purdue All-American Marching Band singing "Back Home Again in Indiana" before the races. It was one of his fonder gigs after his career slowed. 

Jim Nabors at the opening of the Indianapolis 500 on May 24, 2008. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons, BSquared AKA Family Paparazzi, CC BY 2.0

Jim Nabors at the opening of the Indianapolis 500 on May 24, 2008. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons, BSquared AKA Family Paparazzi, CC BY 2.0

Nabors' Hollywood connections landed him roles in 1982's "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" and 1983's "Stroker Ace." Additionally, he acted in theater alongside Florence Henderson in "The Music Man" thanks to Burt Reynolds.

PERSONAL LIFE AND DEATH

Throughout most of his life, Nabors hid the fact that he was gay. In 2013, he and his longtime partner, Stan Cadwallader, finally exchanged vows at a Seattle hotel. 

In November 2017, Nabors passed away at age 89 within days of another "Andy Griffith Show" alum, Rance Howard. Nabors overcame a liver transplant in 1997. He was battling for a year before his death.

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