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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Andy at Cameron Village

Posted July 4, 2012

I never had the pleasure of meeting Andy Griffith. I tried to land a television interview with him back in the 1990's but things never worked out. I am always interested in hearing stories from people who actually had a brush with the famous actor. John Santa is a good friend and talented bluegrass musician and author in Chapel Hill. John sent me this account on how he met Andy Griffith in Raleigh many years ago. I thought you would enjoy it.

It’s interesting to me that for some reason when famous people die, I get asked if I have a story about them. I sort of had an oblique run-in with Doc Watson and at some point I ought to write that down I guess cause people keep asking about him, and I had kinda the same with Mr. Griffith.

I was playing at a wonderful but now defunct jazz club that used to be in Raleigh, the Frog And Nightgown, a really cool place known for it’s great food and frankly great music line up and I was always honored to appear there.

Occasionally some celebrities would come in and the owner, Peter Ingram, would slip the act on stage a note saying who was there and you would make a little announcement and there was of course a round of applause and the celeb would stand and wave or whatever and sometimes people would go over to their table to get an autograph or say hi or get a picture if you were lucky enough to have a camera with you. (This was before tricorders.)

One night I was there with Mike Kott, a fabulous cellist I played with for quite a while, and Peter comes up to the stage between songs while Mike is telling a story and whispers to me that Andy Griffith is in the audience. Peter sneaks off and Mike is finishing up and I am just about to announce the fact Mr. Griffith is on our presence when by sheer happenstance I find him in the dim light, stage left, towards the back of the restaurant and I’m about to open my mouth and introduce him when he locks eyes with me and gives his head a little shake, a little “no.” I’m somewhat taken aback and not sure I read that right, so I kinda peer into the back of the house again at Mr. Griffith and he catches my eye and holds it and gives a little shrug and gestures to the three other people with him at the table and I (finally) get the message he’d rather not be introduced, so I give him a little nod and launch into another song.

In due course we took a break and Peter had just reamed me out back stage for NOT introducing the celebrity in our midst and stomped off and as I’m heading to the green room Mr. Griffith walks by and stops me and says, “Hey, I appreciate you not making a fuss over us, I really do.” And he kinda looked around and lowered his voice and said, “Sometimes even Andy Griffith needs a break from being Andy Griffith.” And I laughed and said no problem, I understand, us Carolina guys gotta stick together and he smiles a big warm smile and claps me on the shoulder and I shake his hand and head on by. I get about ten feet past him and he says, “Young fella…” and I turned to face him, “We sure are enjoying your music a lot. Now I know that 12 string is an Ovation, but what kind of 6 string is that you got up there? I’m thinking it’s a Martin, probably a 35.” And I said “Well, you know your Martins cause, yessir it’s a D 35, you got it right.”

He smiled and cause there is this wonderful brotherhood of Martin players I asked, “What are you playing these days?” and he drops into that wonderful Andy Griffith voice, with that deeply earnest and smooth Southern inflection that only he had, and says: “Oh, I play an 18 or a 28. I’m not good enough for a 35 yet.” And we both laughed and he sorta waved and turned and walked off and I stood there watching him go just wallowing in the fact that for one brief second I got to be in the Andy Griffith Show and I tell you what: It felt mighty good. Mighty good….. (John Santa www.bluegrassbook.com )

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  • lec02572 Jul 5, 4:52 p.m.

    Thank you for the story. I think that most people feel that Andy was a part of their family.

  • EarlSkanks Jul 4, 5:40 p.m.

    This was one of those little tid bits you read and it just brings a smile to your face. Andy Griffith was such a gracious person and what i think we all should strive to be more like as the way true southern gentlemen should carry themselves and interact with others.

  • drnc Jul 4, 4:47 p.m.

    Andy is my hero. I was so proud of the way he represented North Carolina. You have a treasured memory. Thank you for sharing.

  • Tony Rice Jul 4, 10:45 a.m.

    "before tricorders" I'm stealing that. That's awesome.

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