The case can be made that Andy Griffith owes his start in showbiz to Fred Fletcher. Actually, Fred Fletcher made that claim in his book Tempus Fugit. One thing for sure, Fred knew talent when he heard or saw it. Read on to see how Fred makes his case.
I still claim that the good people of Raleigh were first exposed to Andy Griffith’s first hit, “What It Was Was Football,” on Tempus Fugit, and that I was, at least indirectly, responsible for his recording contract with Capitol Records. Andy is, of course, a North Carolina boy who had been to school at Chapel Hill, and “What It Was Was Football” was the record that started him on the road to Mayberry and Matlock.
I played the record on Tempus Fugit and chuckled along with my listeners at Andy’s description of the football game and his “big orange.” I though the record had more potential than just local play, so, on a Saturday afternoon, I called Don Comstock and told him about it. Don was (and is) with Capitol Records. Don expressed some interest in it and asked me to send him a record.
According to Don, he and his national sales manager, Hal Cook, listened to the record, chuckled and took off for Jacksonville for a call on Joe LeMaster at Stockton, Whatly, Davin and Company. When they got there, LeMaster told them about a funny record that he heard called “What It Was Was Football.”
It was becoming obvious to Don and Hall Cook that there was something to the record; so Hal went to Chapel Hill and met with Orville Campbell, the record’s producer, and gave him a $5,000 advance for the rights to it. Hal also signed Andy to Capitol Records and, for the first time ever for a record company, signed an agent-artist contract with Andy. In addition to making records, they booked Andy into hotels around the southeast.
The rest of the story is well-documented on syndicated television. You can find the Andy Griffith Show on now in most of the major television markets.
And it all started on Tempus Fugit.
In 1995, WRAL photographer Jay Jennings, edited part of the classic recording of “What It Was Was Football” to video shot at various college football games played by UNC, Duke, NCSU and East Carolina. A new classic was born! Watch it by clicking on this link.
Thanks to Corp’s Pam Allen for this capcom story. Pam Parris Allen is a former WRAL newscast producer/director who now works as a researcher and producer on the CBC History Project.