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Jim Nabors, Versatile Singer and ‘Gomer Pyle’ Star, Dead at 87

Veteran actor and serious singer who created bumbling ‘Andy Griffith Show’ character also had lifelong country-music connections

Jim Nabors

Actor-singer Jim Nabors, famed for his 'Gomer Pyle' character, died Thursday at his home in Hawaii.

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Jim Nabors, who rose to fame playing bumbling, wide-eyed gas-station-attendant-turned-Marine Corps recruit Gomer Pyle on two of the most popular TV programs of the 1960s, died Thursday at his home in Hawaii after being in ill health for several years. Nabors’ longtime partner, Stan Cadwallader, whom he married in 2013, confirmed the news to Indianapolis TV station WTHR earlier today. Nabors was 87.

Born in Sylacauga, Alabama, Nabors attended the University of Alabama, where he began acting. Upon graduation, he relocated to New York, working as a typist at the United Nations. He also briefly lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee, before moving to Los Angeles. Nabors’ cabaret act featured a character with a high-pitched voice, similar to Gomer Pyle, and also included portions in which he would sing in a deep baritone. From 1962 to 1964, he was featured on The Andy Griffith Show before spinning off his own series, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., which lasted five seasons on CBS. Through the TV series he popularized such comical catchphrases as “Goll-eee,” “Shazam” and “Surprise, surprise, surprise,” but was much more serious when it came to his singing, which ranged from pop standards and gospel music to opera and also included forays into country music.

Nabors recorded several albums while at the same time becoming a variety- and talk-show staple throughout the Seventies, even hosting his own series, The Jim Nabors Hour. He also made occasional appearances on the Grand Ole Opry and on TNN, the Nashville Network. Nabors often made trips to Nashville as a guest of his longtime friend, the late Sarah Cannon – a.k.a. country comedian Minnie Pearl.

Although Nabors lived in Hawaii for several years, where he had a macadamia nut farm, it was Indiana native Florence Henderson (of Brady Bunch fame) who first got him one of his steadiest gigs, singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” at the annual Indianapolis 500 race, which he did from 1972 until 2014, missing just one year, 2012, due to heart surgery.

In addition to television, Nabors appeared in a handful of Burt Reynolds’ films, including Cannonball Run II and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, the latter of which co-starred Dolly Parton.

In This Article: Obituary

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