Monday, May 7, 2012

George Lindsey: 1928-2012

Good morning all...breaking news fills the blog entry this morning about the death of George Lindsey, better known to millions of television viewers as Goober Pyle from The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry RFD, and Hee-Haw. He appeared on Griffith's comedy from 1964 to 1968 and expanded the role in Mayberry RFD during 1968 through 1971...sometimes appearing in what I call civilian clothes, rather than his more familiar work uniform. As many die-hard fans of The Andy Griffith Show and all things Mayberry already know, Lindsey was brought in to fill the eventual void that would be left when Jim Nabors' character, Gomer Pyle, would join the Marines. According to trivia, Goober's last name wasn't going to be Pyle but when the writers and those behind the scenes dreamed up the concept of sending Gomer to the Marines and into a new series it was then determined that Goober would be written in with the last name of Pyle and introduced as Gomer's cousin. 

I guess the news of George Lindsey's death broke late last night or quietly yesterday evening but the news outlets have just started running with it in over-drive within the last 30 minutes. Admittedly, I wasn't watching much news programming on Sunday. I was watching various baseball games on and off and then I watched Hee-Haw last night at 8pm. George, of course, was on there. He did a few jokes in the Kornfield and delivered a couple of one-liners at other moments in the show, reacting to Junior Samples' bloopers, and did a "Pffft! You Was Gone!" routine with Archie Campbell. 

In the link below you will be able to watch a video and read an article on George Lindsey. The video was put together and narrated by Nashville entertainment critic, Jimmy Carter, who tweeted a link to it on Twitter at 9:31pm Sunday night... 

WSMV George Lindsey Tribute

A couple of on-line memorials have erroneously given 1935 as his birth year but he was born in 1928.

I've known of George Lindsey, I can say, my whole life...well, except for the first 5 years of it. My introduction to his career came with Hee-Haw. Those who've read my various blog entries about Hee-Haw will perhaps know that I was introduced to this show through my grandparent's who watched it every  weekend. On this show, especially in the '80s, Lindsey was billed in the opening credits as George 'Goober' Lindsey. At that point in time I was unaware of The Andy Griffith Show and Lindsey's connection to it. As a child of the '80s I was introduced to the career of George Lindsey via his appearances on Hee-Haw and, just as ironic, I first heard of Don Knotts via his hysterical appearances on Three's Company as landlord, Mr. Furley. Once I got older and found The Andy Griffith Show on the TBS station I then started to see the characters that my grandparent's and parent's often talked about and made reference to in conversations. On Hee-Haw, Lindsey's contributions evolved through the years. At first he made sporadic, surprise cameo appearances delivering one-liners...not credited in the opening cast.

Later on he began making even more appearances...mostly reacting to the bloopers and the various ways Junior Samples could mess up on-camera. Then Lindsey began appearing in the Kornfield, trading jokes with any number of regulars...coming off as a he'd been a cast-member since day 1. That's how well he and his character fit into the series.

In his earlier appearances on Hee-Haw he didn't wear the famed Goober cap or mechanic suit...he wore the traditional bib overalls, usually with some sort of over-sized tie or something unusual. He was inserted into the opening credits in the following season, 1973-1974. Wearing large ties, big hats, wigs, and other costumes became a tradition for Lindsey on this program. Pie throwing wasn't common but sometimes it wouldn't be out of the question for Lindsey to play the straight-man, not tipping off the other person about what was going to happen, and then ~SPLAT!!~ a pie in the face...all caught on camera and aired for the country to see. As the program went on, Lindsey's involvement solidified. He appeared in various sketches throughout the '70s. Eventually he became the focal point of his own sketch which took place, you guessed it, at a gas station. In quite a few of these sketches he was joined by an uncredited Jack Burns who'd play the part of a city slicker/con-man always trying to pull one over on Goober but it would always backfire with Goober coming out on top by having more smarts and common sense. In 1978 Lindsey starred in a program called Goober and the Trucker's Paradise. Ray Stevens performed the theme song. I have never seen this program but only one episode was may not even exist on tape anymore.

Also on Hee-Haw, Lulu's Truck Stop became a frequent setting for George Lindsey's comedic antics, too. He'd usually play a fussy customer or one who was in such a hurry that he'd literally cram his mouth with food and dash off. In the ever popular sketch referred to as Minnie's School House, Lindsey was often playing the part of either the sarcastic student, always with a quick one-liner to throw back at Minnie, or the class dunce. Junior Samples played that character most of the time prior to his death in 1983. Minnie and Grandpa Jones once had a sketch that was set in a kitchen and later they were both placed in a sketch that took place in a post office. Lindsey appeared frequently as the mail man who usually began a sketch with pride but would always have that pride diminished when Grandpa or Minnie would tell him that he delivered the wrong letter to someone else by mistake or forgot to deliver an urgent package somewhere, etc. etc. It was always a cute sketch involving the three of them.

At the start of Hee-Haw in 1969 there had always been a segment known as "Pffft! You Was Gone!" where, typically, Archie Campbell would sing a short, comedic tale and then elbow Gordie Tapp, who'd have his back to the camera, and he'd turn around and sing the chorus of the song with Archie...climaxing with a Bronx cheer in one another's face. As the 1980's dawned, Lindsey found himself performing in this sketch with a lot of regularity. The sketch had been so popular for years and the guest stars wanted to take part in it and so usually Gordie, Archie, and George would take turns with a different guest and perform the routine. Sometimes 3 or 4 of these routines appeared in one episode...featuring a guest star paired up with either Archie, Gordie, or George.

In a 1980 episode, George Lindsey performed the routine with Ray Stevens. After Archie Campbell's death in 1987, Lindsey remained a permanent fixture of this off with Gordie Tapp...through the end of the series in 1992.

Upon the end of Hee-Haw, Lindsey would go on to appear in the Opryland stage-show revival called Hee-Haw Live! and then release Goober in a Nut-Shell, a book that was so popular, primarily in the southern half of the country, that it necessitated three printings. Lindsey had a cameo role in a Ray Stevens direct-to-home video movie, Get Serious!, in 1995. In the film, Lindsey plays the part of the leader of a local Shriner organization who presents Ray with a yellow dune buggy, which goes on to benefit Ray a great deal as the story unfolds. Lindsey participated in the Get Serious! night on the TNN program, Music City Tonight, in the fall of 1995 and spoke about his experiences on the set. Later in the show, Lindsey appears as Coy when Ray performs a live version of "Shriner's Convention". A year later, 1996, Lindsey won the Minnie Pearl Award for his charitable and humanitarian contributions.

A glance at various on-line sites will show that George Lindsey appeared on various television programs over the decades...everything from drama to his more well-known comedic appearances. In 1982 Lindsey appeared on the Conway Twitty on the Mississippi television special and did a stand-up routine. For many years he hosted a golf tournament in Montgomery, Alabama for charity and was one of the people responsible for a film festival down there which was officially billed as The George Lindsey UNA Film Festival and you can read about it here.

George Lindsey performs "Mountain Dew" on one of his early Hee-Haw appearances right here. For those who want to see the Salute to the Kornfield program, which lasts for 6 hours altogether, you can buy a copy of it here. The show features George Lindsey among the MANY guests and it was taped about a year ago. The program aired on RFD-TV for the first time in January of this year so it's still less than half a year old as far as a television special is concerned. A lot of footage that didn't make it to the airwaves is on the DVD's. In the link you'll also be able to watch the brief commercial for the project. 

George Lindsey


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