Ngram says: Opie, you’re still no Andy

More phrase-frequency charts from those bustling bibliophiles at Google Books Ngram Reader:

— Andy Griffith vs. Don Knotts and Ron Howard

— Moonshine vs. NASCAR

— Interstate 40 vs. Interstate 77, Interstate 85 and Interstate 95

— Moon Pie vs. sweet potato pie

— Piltdown Man vs. Marlboro Man

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

Monday morning link dump: Patricia Neal, R.I.P.

Death noted: actress Patricia Neal, who played opposite Andy Griffith in the prescient and underrated “A Face in the Crowd” and opposite Gary Cooper in “Bright Leaf,” which inspired “Bright Leaves,” Ross McElwee’s  bittersweet documentary on tobacco.

— A big day for challenging long-accepted Civil War numbers: the death toll for North Carolina troops and the percentage of Confederates who owned slaves.

— Baseball Hall of Fame acknowledges error in plaque discovered by Durham blogger.

— “Junebug” screenwriter relishes the serendipity of Winston-Salem’s annual Bulky Item Collection day.

— Just when you thought Walter Dellinger couldn’t be any more ubiquitous….

Andy and Barney didn’t just happen

“[Critics and CBS] never saw through to the sophistication underlying the show. If the men aren’t wearing Brooks Brothers and the women aren’t wearing the latest hairstyles and fashions and they’re not discussing something terribly chic at cocktails, then it isn’t ‘sophisticated.’ Andy felt very strongly about that attitude, really resented it….

“Those other shows [‘Green Acres,’ ‘Petticoat Junction,’ ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’] were fine for what they attempted, but ours was a different type of show entirely.”

— Producer Aaron Ruben, as quoted in “The Andy Griffith Show” (1981) by Richard Michael Kelly

Ruben, credited by Griffith with “set[ting] the style of this show” in its early years, applied a crucial sensitivity to the subtle  interplay between Andy Taylor and Barney Fife.  (Just imagine how that could’ve gone amiss!) He died Saturday in Beverly Hills at age 95.

Detente achieved in Aunt Bee’s kitchen

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On this day in 1968: The all-time highest-rated episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” airs, during the last of the show’s eight prime-time seasons.

In “Barney Hosts a Summit Meeting,” former costar Don Knotts returns for a guest appearance as Barney Fife. Hoping to help his ex-deputy impress superiors at the Raleigh Police Department, Andy allows Barney to arrange an East-West summit at the Taylor household. The meeting fails miserably until an impromptu encounter in Aunt Bee’s kitchen saves the day.

The episode won Knotts a fifth Emmy for his portrayal of Fife (Griffith never won any for his Sheriff Taylor).

Pictured: Pinback button from the collection promoting reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show” on the TV Land cable network.