by Charly Mann
Chapel Hill was the launching pad for the man responsible for the most beloved television show of all time, The Andy Griffith Show. Andy Griffith learned acting, singing, and acting here, and it was his attendance at UNC football games at Kenan Stadium that inspired the vehicle that made him a star.
Cover of the extended play (EP) 45 of What it Was, Was Football 1953
Andy Griffith graduated from UNC in 1949 with bachelor’s degree in music. He was president of the UNC Glee Club, a member of the Carolina Playmakers and belonged to Phi Mu Alpha, the music fraternity. In 1952 while he was driving from Chapel Hill to Raleigh he created the hilarious spoof of college football he entitled What it Was, Was Football. In the monologue Griffith takes on the persona of a country bumpkin named Deacon Andy Griffith who is swept up by a crowd ascending the wooded hills surrounding Kenan Stadium and finds himself attending an event he will never forget. He recalls seeing opposing crowds on two sides of a cow pasture watching men hit each other and throwing others to the ground as they try to get control of something that resembles a pumpkin. He was appalled to see convicts in striped shirts following the men up and down the pasture, and police standing all around the stadium doing nothing to stop the mayhem.
Andy Griffith in Chapel Hill at Kenan Stadium performing What it Was, Was Football, Fall of 1954
The routine was recorded at a Jefferson-Pilot insurance convention in Greensboro in 1952. Orville Campbell the incredible owner of the Chapel Hill Weekly released the record on his new label Colonial Records, which would go on to rival Sun Records as an incubator for great artists including George Hamilton IV, Billy “Crash” Craddock, and John D. Loudermilk. The record was soon so popular that the rights were sold to Capital Records where it went on to sell more than one million copies. The attention Griffith received from this record vaulted him into the national spotlight and gave him opportunities to show his acting talents in movies like A Face In the Crowd and No Time For Sergeants, and eventually The Andy Griffith Show.
MAD MAGAZINE's illustrated version of Andy Griffith's What It Was, Was Football
Griffith has stayed close to Chapel Hill and his alma mater throughout his career. He recently gave UNC’s Wilson Library his papers, letters, and memorabilia including his own penciled and marked-up scripts of every Andy Griffith Show episode, as well as those from Matlock. I think his best gift to Chapel Hill though was a time on the Andy Griffith Show in which he told his “son” Opie that if he wanted to go to the University of North Carolina he would have to study hard.
1949 Game that may well have inspired What it Was, Was Football. That is 69, Bob Cox, leading the blockers for the great Charle "Choo-Choo" Justice ,22, against William and Mary in Kenan Stadium.
This is the forest surrounding Kenan Stadium Andy Griffith would have seen in his UNC years
What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. or the crisp October nights. No, our love for this place is based upon the fact that it is as it was meant to be, The University of the People.