Jim Nabors, star of The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., has died at the age of 87. Nabors passed away in Hawaii after suffering from health issues for the last couple of years. His health had been in decline as the result of a liver transplant from 20 years ago. The news was confirmed by his longtime partner and husband since 2013, Stan Cadwallader.
Starting in 1962, Jim Nabors became a household name when he debuted on The Andy Griffith Show as Gomer Pyle. The gas station attendant character was notable for being an irritation for Don Knotts' character, Barney Fife. Gomer Pyle was such a hit on The Andy Griffith Show that Nabors was given his own spin-off, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., by CBS in 1964. The spin-off was a massive success and ran until 1969. Gomer Pyle became known for his catchphrases, "shazam" and "golly," the latter of which would usually be extended for several extra syllables. Nabors actually never intended to be an actor, as he recalled in an interview.
"I had never acted. I have a degree in business, so I was singing in a little nightclub and my act consisted of singing like this and talking like this. It sort of got everyone's attention. It was kind of surprising to me. Andy Griffith saw me there one night and, long story short, he invited to have me."
In addition to his career as an actor, Jim Nabors was a notable singer. His 1966 album Jim Nabors Sings with All Your Heart, charted on the Billboard Top 25 and went gold, selling more than 500,000 copies. He charted a dozen albums through 1972, with Jim Nabors' Christmas Album becoming a top-selling holiday album in 1967.
Jim Nabors was also known for singing at the Indy 500 every year until 2014, which was his last performance. He sang Back Home Again in Indiana, but when he was first invited to sing at the event, he thought he would be singing God Bless America. WTHR Sports Director Dave Calabro, who was friends with Nabors and worked with him when he would sing at the Indianapolis 500, had this to say about the late actor and singer.
"He always loved coming back for that annual singing of 'Back Home Again in Indiana.' We lost a great friend and legend. He was just a common guy. He never put on airs. He was approachable, he loved people, he loved the fans. He didn't care who you were, what you were, he just loved people."
In addition to his role as Gomer Pyle, Jim Nabors was also a frequent guest star on variety shows like The Carol Burnett Show in the 60s and 70s. His last acting credit was as Gomer Pyle in 1991's Hi Honey, I'm Home. Dave Calabro added to WTHR that "He was just a fun guy to be around And we'll cherish all those memories." RIP Jim Nabors.