Shazam! How Jim Nabors Got His Hollywood Break
It’s a classic cliché about would-be entertainers leaving their hometowns and moving to Hollywood to find fame and fortune. Los Angeles is crammed with pretty waitresses and hunky bartenders, awaiting their big break as they show up for cattle-call castings in between their day jobs. Jim Nabors had a different reason for leaving Sylacauga, Alabama: He had asthma, and the dry Southern California air would do him good. It was at the Santa Monica nightclub The Horn where Andy Griffith discovered him. Nabors was a good ol’ boy from the South, with an accent to match. But when he hit the stage to sing a popular standard, a completely different voice emerged, a rich, clear baritone. Griffith was sold. He arranged for Nabors to appear in his popular The Andy Griffith Show, as a good-natured if somewhat dimwitted gas-station attendant, Gomer Pyle. Gomer was a sweet, naïve fellow whose happy nature charmed a national audience. When excited, Gomer would exclaim, “Shazam!” Based upon his success in this role, CBS created Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. In the show, Gomer was a Marine enlistee, stationed at a U.S. base. His immediate superior, Sergeant Vince Carter, was the perfect foil for the hapless jarhead. Nabors enjoyed a fruitful career, appearing on many TV shows and movies, and cut several record albums. In his personal life, it was rumored that he was married to Rock Hudson. While the two were friendly, Nabors has been seeing his partner, Sam Cadwallader, since 1975; the pair married in 2013. Nabors celebrates his 84th birthday this week. He has been a charming American original for his entire career, bringing us lots of laughs along the way. We wish him many, many more good years.