Why Andy Griffith Hated Being Asked If ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Was Based on His Hometown

On the set of 'The Andy Griffith Show'
On the set of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ | CBS via Getty Images

Andy Griffith was born and raised in North Carolina, in a small town much like The Andy Griffith Show‘s Mayberry.

Although the show enjoyed great success, what Griffith himself did not enjoy was being asked if he had based the fictional town of Mayberry on his own hometown.

At times, the show’s star would simply lose patience with the question.

Andy Griffith was born and raised in Mount Airy, NC

A scene from 'The Andy Griffith Show'
A scene from ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ | CBS via Getty Images

Griffith was born in the blue-collar area of the small town of Mount Airy, which was home, as Daniel de Visé writes in Andy and Don, “to the hosiery mills that employed the town’s working-class women and the furniture mills that employed many of the men,” including Griffith’s father, Carl.

Even the town’s street names “were named for industries: Factory Street, Depot Street, Granite Street.”

Griffith had issues with his hometown

A scene from 'The Andy Griffith Show'
A scene from ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ | CBS via Getty Images

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Andy Griffith experienced a great deal of bullying in his youth.

De Vise was told by Griffith’s childhood acquaintance J.B. Childress that to him the future star, an only child, had “everything; my family, I was one of eight, and we were extremely poor.”

Childress said he “picked on” Griffith at times. “I can remember him riding his bicycle, and I stuck out my foot and almost wrecked him.”

And Griffith at one time related a painful story during his grammar school years when he was playing tag or chase with a classmate who didn’t want to play. She finally turned to him saying, “Get away from me, white trash.”

Griffith never forgot these slights among others and in his mind, Mount Airy was not a positive memory.

When asked what people back home thought of his show at the time of its 1960 premiere, Griffith said “I don’t know what they thought at first,” he said. “But now they think I based the show on Mount Airy. I’ve argued about this too long, I don’t care. Let them think what they want to think.”

What ‘The Andy Griffith Show’s creator felt the show should have been called

'The Andy Griffith Show' statue in Mount Airy, NC
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ statue in Mount Airy, NC | Grant Halverson/Getty Images for TV Land

In a conversation with the Archive of American Television, Andy Griffith shared series creator Sheldon Leonard’s belief that the show had been given the wrong title. Leonard saw that the real star of the show was Mayberry. Much later, Griffith agreed.

“Sheldon actually said one time, ‘I think we misnamed this show. It should’ve been called ‘Mayberry’ to start with,’” Griffith said.

Richard Kelly in his book The Andy Griffith Show opined, “The real hero of The Andy Griffith Show is the town of Mayberry, presided over by the sheriff without a gun, Andy Taylor. It is filled with wonderful characters we can all understand and care about. It is nostalgic and funny, and most important, it is timeless.”