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Ask SAM: How did Opie's mom die on 'Andy Griffith Show'?

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In honor of Mayberry Days, which is going on this weekend in Mount Airy, here are some answers about "The Andy Griffith Show":

Q: On "The Andy Griffith Show," how did Andy's wife (Opie's mother) die?


Answer: How Andy Taylor became a widower was never explained.

The show, and Sheriff Andy, were first introduced on a 1960 episode of "Make Room For Daddy" with Danny Thomas. Andy Griffith, then a popular nightclub comic, was the guest star. Thomas encountered the Mayberry sheriff after running a stop sign for a road that had not been built. On that show, there was a scene that mentioned Opie's mother. But the episode did not give a cause of death or even reveal her name.

In the episode, an upset Opie ran into the sheriff's office because Mrs. Balford had stepped on and killed his pet turtle, Wilford, in front of the ice-cream parlor. Opie wanted his father to arrest Mrs. Balford, give her a fair trial and then hang her.

Andy tried to help his young son deal with his loss by talking about how sad they were when Opie's mother died, back when Opie was "the least little speck of a baby." Opie looked at Andy and asked, "Who stepped on Ma?"

There were brief mentions of Opie's mother, but no explanations of exactly what happened to her.

Q: Is it true there were lyrics to the theme song of "The Andy Griffith Show"?


Answer: Yes. There are lyrics to the theme song, but like the themes to "Star Trek" and "Bonanza," the wordless version was used in the credits of the show and is most commonly known.

The "Andy Griffith" theme had music by Earle Hagen and Herbert Spencer, with lyrics by Everett Sloane, a well-known character actor. The opening lines are: "Well, now, take down your fishin' pole and meet me at the fishin' hole/ We may not get a bite all day, but don't you rush away/ What a great place to rest your bones and mighty fine for skippin' stones/ You'll feel fresh as a lemonade, a-settin' in the shade." Andy Griffith recorded a single of the song with the lyrics.

Q: Why did Barney Fife leave "The Andy Griffith Show" before it went to color?


Answer: Don Knotts left the series to pursue a film career right before "The Andy Griffith Show" went from black and white to color.

According to Jim Clark, the "presiding goober emeritus" of the Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club, the largest fan club for the show, "The basic story as both Andy Griffith and Don Knotts usually told it: Andy had always talked about doing five seasons. As the fifth season was winding down, Don Knotts figured he'd better look into finding other work. He was offered a nice movie deal with Universal Pictures.

"Meanwhile, Andy didn't get any offers that he liked better than working on 'The Andy Griffith Show,' so he decided to continue with the show. Though Don hadn't yet actually signed the deal with Universal, he still felt committed to it, and movies were something he wanted to try."

You can find out more about Mayberry Days and the events that are going on today, including the parade; silent auction; autograph sessions; Colonel Tim's Talent Time stage show; checkers, cornhole and hay bale toss championships; and more at



Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101 

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