Here’s What Happened to Jim Nabors Before and After Playing Gomer Pyle on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

From today’s point of view, it’s probably difficult for most people to recognize just how big a celebrity Jim Nabors was back in the 1960s and 1970s. He first caught the television audience’s attention as mechanic Gomer Pyle in the third season of The Andy Griffith Show, where he introduced into the popular vernacular phrases like “Gol-ly!” and “Shazam!” He appeared on that show a total of 23 times before being spun-off into his own highly successful series, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., which saw the character joining the United States Marines. This in turn led to his own variety show and success as a recording artist. But so much of it all comes back to Gomer, which was just fine with the late actor/singer.

“I really love Gomer,” Jim proclaimed to Allan Newsome during an interview for his Two Chairs, No Waiting Andy Griffith Show podcast. “I had the good fortune, if you’re gonna play a character, to play as nice a guy as he was. People always ask me if I would like to be identified differently and I tell them, ‘Absolutely not!’ I really enjoyed it and still do. I haven’t necessarily made my career totally on Gomer, because I’ve used so much music in my career, but I’ve been very blessed in that I’ve had a diverse career. I had a situation comedy, a concert career and a variety show. It’s all been really wonderful, because in show business you’re always kind of looking for your next job. It’s a very insecure business. Fortunately, I was never without a job in 40 years.”

His one regret, he told the New York Daily News, was that early on “I didn’t have more experience. Still, when your opportunity comes along, you don’t ask. You keep your fingers crossed and try your best.”

It all began for James Thurston Nabors on June 12, 1930, in Sylacauga, Alabama, when he entered the world and was greeted by police officer father Fred Nabors, mother Mavis Pearl and older sisters Freddie and Annie Ruth. Singing first became a part of his life in high school and at church. This expanded to acting when he attended the University of Alabama and began performing in skits.

jim-nabors-as-gomer-pyle
CBS Television Distribution

“I grew up singing, but never as a soloist,” he told Allan. “I sang in church choirs, I sang in the ‘glee club’ in high school and things like that. But I never sang a solo. When I went away to college to the University of Alabama, I used to sing around the fraternity house just for fun, as guys do.”

Upon graduation, he moved to New York City, where he worked as a typist for the United Nations. “They paid me $55 a week,” he related to the Press and Sun-Bulletin of Binghamton, New York, in 1963. “It wasn’t much salary, but the work was interesting.”

Jim’s journey continues, just scroll down.