One of the legends of 1960s television, Jim Nabors, who played Gomer Pyle on two CBS sitcoms, has died. USA Today reports that Nabors died today in Hawaii. He was 87.
“The entertainer, who underwent a liver transplant in 1994 after contracting hepatitis B, died peacefully at his home after his health had declined for the past year, his husband, Stan Cadwallader, told the Associated Press,” USA Today reports.
The report quotes Cadwallader saying: “Everybody knows he was a wonderful man. And that’s all we can say about him. He’s going to be dearly missed.”
Nabors played Mayberry gas station attendant and mechanic Gomer Pyle for two seasons on “The Andy Griffith Show,” from 1962-1964, before starring in his own spinoff, “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” The show, which featured Nabors as the thorn in the side of drill sergeant Vince Carter, played by Frank Sutton, ran for five seasons on CBS, from 1964-1969.
“The Alabama native had a long career that featured TV and movie roles, more than two dozen albums and numerous concert appearances, including long-running shows in Las Vegas and Hawaii, the latter of which became his home in the 1970s. He bought a 500-acre macadamia ranch there,” USA Today reports.
His Gomer Pyle character popularized a number of trademark exclamations, notably “Well, Golllll-ly!,” “Shazam!” and “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!”
“The University of Alabama graduate moved to Los Angeles as a young man, taking a job as a film cutter at NBC,” USA Today notes. “In his spare time, he acted and sang at a Santa Monica cabaret theater, The Horn. Andy Griffith saw him there and later offered him the the chance to audition for the role of Pyle, the innocent gas station attendant on ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’ The character’s popularity led to the later spinoff.”
Nabors hosted his own variety show, “The Jim Nabors Hour,” for two seasons and was a regular on variety shows such as “The Carol Burnett Show” and “The Sonny and Cher Show,” where his distinctive baritone surprised fans who knew him only as Gomer.
Here’s a clip of Nabors singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” to help start the Indy 500 for the final time, in 2014 …