Big hit for Andy, big loss for record industry?

“For the jukebox and disk-jockey trade, record companies are reviving an old idea: ‘talk’ records. These are comedy sketches or monologues of the type that helped kill vaudeville and weakened radio to the point where television became inevitable. Last week one of them, ‘What It Was, Was Football,’ was striking for the bestselling list.

” ‘Football,’ the creation of a 27-year-old North Carolina singer and former teacher named Andy Griffith, is a monologue purporting to be a wandering hillbilly’s wide-eyed reactions to his first sight of a crowded college stadium, and is notable chiefly for Griffith’s relentless rural drawl. Sample:

” ‘What Ah seen was this whole raft o’ people a-settin’ on these two banks and a-lookin’ at one another across this pretty little green cow pasture’….

“Griffith has moved to Manhattan, is planning to investigate subways, automats, tipping, etc. Backing him up is Capitol Records, which…  will pay him a weekly salary (‘over $100’) instead of the usual percentage of sales, will also manage his career. Probably nothing can be done about it.”

— From Time magazine, Jan. 18, 1954

3 thoughts on “Big hit for Andy, big loss for record industry?”

  1. Lew, your post on June 2nd about the Klan in North Carolina prompted John Blythe to comment that there was a similar post in “A View To Hugh” in the Hugh Morton collection. Well, there is an Andy Griffith “What It Was, Was Football,” image in the Morton Collection as well.

    http://blogs.lib.unc.edu/morton/index.php/2008/09/morton-photos-in-todays-news/p081_ntbs4_000227/

    The Griffith monologue was recorded first on Colonial Records by Orville Campbell of Chapel Hill. (Later sold to Capitol Records).

    Hugh Morton claims at least partial credit for getting Andy and Orville together. As Morton liked to tell the story, back in April of 1953 he was hosting a banquet at the Carolina Inn and needed an entertainer. Someone suggested a young graduate student who was active in the Playmakers Theater. Morton was able to hire the student for $25. The student’s name was Andrew Griffith, and he delighted the audience with a hilarious monologue about a bumpkin at his first football game. Campbell was in the audience that night and after the show rushed up to meet Andy and eventually signed him to a contract. “What It Was, Was Football,” was first recorded in September, 1953 at the North Carolina convention of the Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company in Greensboro.

    Then in January, 1954 Andy Griffith made his first TV appearance on the CBS-TV show “Toast Of The Town,” hosted by Ed Sullivan. (The show would later be call “The Ed Sullivan Show”).

  2. Thanks for the background and Morton connection, Jack. I can remember first hearing “What It Was…” and “Romeo and Juliet” (on a 45, of course) while spending the night at a friend’s house. I was 10, and probably as mystified as I was entertained.

  3. Years ago, someone told me that “What It Was, Was Football” had been recorded by another person (whose name I can’t recall) earlier than Griffith recorded it. Did Griffith write it?

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