I bet you didn't know that he was a Moravian. The Moravian church has a lot of congregations in central North Carolina. They founded Old Salem and they make some really good cookies. They also had a HUGE influence on John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.
I wonder if it's that Moravian heritage that made Andy such a good trombone player. (They're into brass bands, you know.) You see, once he got to UNC-CH he acted in a few plays, caught the bug, and decided to answer a different call. Apparently UNC didn't have a drama department in those days, so he majored in music, playing trombone and E-flat tuba. I was a trombone player in high school. I have a lot of respect for people who play the trombone well, because I was terrible.
You've probably heard Andy's famous monologue, "What it Was Was Football." (If you haven't, or if you just want to re-live it, there's a link below.) Here's something I bet you didn't know. When I went on my "Walk to Emmaus" spiritual retreat, I became acquainted with a fellow named MARCUS HAMILTON. Marcus is a very talented illustrator, and right about that time, he had just signed a contract to draw the weekday "Dennis the Menace" comics. Now, Marcus can do "What it Was ..." exactly like Andy. He nails it. And it's hilarious! In fact, I had him come do it at a stewardship campaign banquet at my church.
Here's why this matters, though: I heard Marcus speak at a Rotary lunch in Lexington, NC. He shared that it was this monologue that gave him the confidence to do what he now does. You see, when he was in school, Marcus was painfully shy and without self-confidence. But he was good at memorizing things, and one day one of his teachers allowed him to perform "What it Was Was Football" to fulfill a class assignment. Marcus says that the response he received from his classmates was life-changing, and helped him realize that he really could accomplish things in life.
Another thing you didn't know: a colleague of mine, REV. NEAL BROWER is a recognized expert on the Andy Griffith Show. Neal has written a BOOK entitled Mayberry 101. He's a featured speaker at "Mayberry Days" celebrations in Mount Airy, NC, and he's taught a popular course on the show in eight different community colleges. He's also organized two successful Mayberry reunions that attracted 10 of the show's former stars.
Neal and I have a personal connection (besides the fact that we're both United Methodist pastors in the Western NC Conference). In recent years, Neal has served as pastor of St. John's UMC in Greensboro. My dad was pastor there a long time ago, during a lot of my growing up years. A while back, Neal invited me to guest preach at St. John's. During that service he told the congregation about when he moved into the church's parsonage (for you non-UM's, that's a church-owned house that the pastor lives in. I'm really glad Covenant Community doesn't have one). He opened one of the kitchen drawers--and there was a great big dated signature written in bright red (permanent) marker by a very young Claude Kayler. (I wanted future generations to know I had lived there. It worked!) Of course, Neal's children immediately wanted to do the same thing, and he told them no. They should have done it on the sly, like I did.
Maybe you didn't know that the famous whistling theme song that played while Andy and Opie went fishing (what a great image, huh?) also had LYRICS. I first heard them on a CD I bought during a pilgrimage to Mount Airy.
Finally, something you might not have known about Andy was that he won a grammy for his recording of 25 Christian hymns entitled "I Love to Tell the Story." And that he was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame. And that his wife told reporters on Tuesday that he was a strong Christian who was ready to face death.
I look forward to meeting him, and thanking him for the hours of joy he brought into my life.