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Andy Griffith, Chapel Hill, UNC, and Football

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.

Andy Griffith, What it Was Was Football 45, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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 at Kenan Stadium Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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 “CrashCraddock, 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.

Andy Griffith, What It Was Was Football, Mad Magazine, Chapel Hill, NC
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. 

Aeriel View Kenan Stadium, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
This is the forest surrounding Kenan Stadium Andy Griffith would have seen in his UNC years 



Bo Morehead      1:51 PM Sun 5/10/2009

Griffith is amazing as a serious and comic actor, a singer, and stand-up comedian. My favorite thing he has ever done is the part he played in the recent movie WAITRESS.

KY11-56      10:11 AM Fri 5/8/2009

That is a great shot of Kenan Stadium. It is hard to believe that it once looked so beautiful.

Katy Vaughn      6:20 PM Thu 5/7/2009

The record is so funny. I can't believe I never knew about it. I was born in 1986 so this was not something my generation got exposed to I guess, but I grew up on re-runs of the Griffith TV show.

Terry Clayton      1:08 PM Thu 5/7/2009

That MAD Magazine version of "What It Was, Was Football" is incredible. Can you post the rest of it?

Dot Cherry      11:26 AM Thu 5/7/2009

I always thought 1940's Chapel Hill (when I grew up in town) was more like Mayberry than any other community I knew in North Carolina.

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Chapel Hill is located on a hill whose only distinguishing feature in the 18th century was a small chapel on top called New Hope Chapel. This church was built in 1752 and is currently the location of The Carolina Inn. The town was founded in 1819, and chartered in 1851.



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.

-- Charles Kuralt



Dark Side of the Hill -- Pink Floyd, the creators of the most popular album in history, Dark Side of the Moon, took the second half of their name from Floyd Council, a Chapel Hill native, and great blues singer and guitarist. He once belonged to a group called "The Chapel Hillbillies".



Check out Charly Mann's other website:
Oklahoma Birds and Butterflies


We need your help. Send your submissions, ideas, photos, and questions to CHMemories@gmail.com.





There would probably be no Chapel Hill if the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees in 1793 had not chosen land across from New Hope Chapel for the location of the university. By 1800 there were about 100 people living in thirty houses surrounding the campus.



The University North Carolina's first student was Hinton James, who enrolled in February, 1795. There is now a dormitory on the campus named in his honor.





The University of North Carolina was closed from 1870 to 1875 because of lack of state funding.





William Ackland left his art collection and $1.25 million to Duke University in 1940 on the condition that he would be buried in the art museum that the University was to build with his bequest. Duke rejected this condition even though members of the Duke Family are buried in Duke Chapel. What followed was a long and acrimonious legal battle between Ackland relatives who now wanted the inheritance, Rollins College, and the University of North Carolina, each attempting to receive the funds. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and in 1949 UNC was awarded the money for the museum. Ackland is buried near the museum's entrance. When the museum first opened, in the early sixties, there were rumors that his remains were leaking out of the mausoleum.



The official name of the Arboretum on the University of North Carolina campus is the Coker Arboretum. It is named after Dr. William Cocker, the University's first botany professor. It occupies a little more than five acres. It was founded in 1903.



Chapel Hill's main street has always been called Franklin Street. It was named after Benjamin Franklin in the early 1790s.



We need your help. Send your submissions, ideas, photos, and questions to CHMemories@gmail.com.



Chapel Hill High School and Chapel Hill Junior High were on Franklin Street in the same location as University Square until the mid 1960s.



The Colonial Drug Store at 450 West Franklin Street was owned and operated by John Carswell. It was famous for a fresh-squeezed carbonated orange beverage called a "Big O". In the early 1970s, I managed the Record and Tape Center next door, and must have had over 100 of those drinks. The Colonial Drug Store closed in 1996.



Sutton's Drugstore, which opened in 1923, has one of the last soda fountains in the South. It is one of the few businesses remaining on Franklin Street that was in operation when I was growing up in the 1950s.



Future President Gerald Ford lived in Chapel Hill twice. First when he was 24, in 1938, he took a law couse in summer school at UNC. He lived in the Carr Building, which was a law school dormitory. At the same time, Richard Nixon, the man he served under as Vice President, was attending law school at Duke. In 1942, Ford returned to Chapel Hill to attend the U.S. Navy's Pre-Flight School training program. He lived in a rental house on Hidden Hills Drive.



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