Andy Griffith Dies at 86

"I was proud to call him a friend."—Brad Paisley

Andy Griffith, who endeared himself to generations of TV viewers as Sheriff Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show, has died at age 86, according to various media reports. The details on the cause of his death were not immediately available, but it is known that the famed actor/comedian was rushed to a North Carolina hospital by an EMS team Tuesday morning (July 3). Andy's close friend Bill Friday confirmed the news to several sources.

Andy, born June, 1, 1926, in Mount Airy, N.C., began his career as a stand-up comedian who recorded several comedy albums, with routines told from the point of view of a backwoods bumpkin. His comic monologue on the sport of football, "What It Was, Was Football," is still considered a narrative comedy classic. He also appeared in movies, including A Face in the Crowd, as well as on Broadway, where he starred in No Time for Sergeants. But he truly made his mark on the CBS series The Andy Griffith Show, portraying the benign Sheriff Andy Taylor, who kept law and order in the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C., with common sense and cracker barrel wisdom. The show ran from 1960 to 1968 and still airs in reruns on stations across the country to this day.

Another cast member of the series, George ("Goober") Lindsey, passed away earlier this year. Only Ron Howard, who played Andy's son Opie in the TV series, and Jim Nabors, the lovable Gomer Pyle, are left from the main cast of The Andy Griffith Show. In 1986, Andy returned to television in the detective series Matlock, which also proved popular with viewers.

Though he was not a country recording artist, Andy had several ties to country music. He appeared on the Grand Ole Opry on a few occasions. His most memorable contribution to the country world came with his cameo role in Brad Paisley's video for "Waitin' On a Woman." Brad, a huge fan of the show, wanted Andy for the video and the two ended up becoming friends. "Waitin' On a Woman" won the 2008 Country Music Association award for Music Video of the Year.

“Few people in this world will ever have more influence on our lives than Andy Griffith," Brad said in a statement released by his publicist. "An actor who never looked like he was acting, a moral compass who saved as many souls as most preachers, and an entertainer who put smiles on more faces than almost anyone; this was as successful a life as is pretty much possible. Andy Griffith made the world a better place, and I was so proud to call him a friend.”

Alan Jackson often noted his love for Andy and The Andy Griffith Show in interviews. One year, Alan even decorated his Fan Fair booth to look like the town of Mayberry. Songs that made reference to The Andy Griffith Show include "Mayberry" by Rascal Flatts and Confederate Railroad's "Elvis and Andy."

Upon hearing of Andy's death, fellow North Carolinian Scotty McCreery tweeted, "We lost a legend today that provided me and my family some great quality time around the TV filled with some good laughs."

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