The iconic singer, actor and funnyman passed away at his home in his native North Carolina at the age of 86.
Griffith initially studied to be a preacher, but he soon decided to change his college major to music and sang in several student opera productions.
Early on in his professional career, Griffith became known for his dramatic deliveries of monologues and even scored a U.S. chart hit in 1954 when his reading of What it Was, Was Football was released as a single, reaching number nine. The success led him to Broadway and he landed the title role in the 1957 musical Destry Rides Again, starring alongside actress Delores Gray.
However, it was his performance in his film debut A Face in the Crowd which really shot him to fame and he went on to become a TV regular with early roles in popular series The United States Steel Hour and Make Room for Daddy, where he befriended producer Sheldon Leonard.
The pair came up with the idea for The Andy Griffith Show, set in the fictional town of Mayberry in North Carolina, and it launched in 1960 with Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor. The show also starred Don Knotts and a young Ron Howard, who played the late icon’s onscreen son, Opie.
Griffith later became known for his work on 1980s legal drama series Matlock, but he never left his music roots behind and won a Grammy Award in 1997 for Best Southern Gospel, Country Gospel or Bluegrass Gospel Album for I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns. He also appeared in the video for country star Brad Paisley’s song Waitin’ on a Woman.
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the U.S., in 2005 for his contributions to entertainment.
As news of his passing spread on Tuesday (03Jul12), a host of celebrities took to their Twitter.com page to comment on the sad news – and Griffith’s former co-star Ron Howard was among the first to pay tribute, writing, “Andy Griffith His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations & shaped my life I’m forever grateful RIP Andy”.
Veteran actress Patty Duke tweeted, “RIP dear Andy, you brought so much enjoyment to so many of us. I will miss you!”, while Lady Antebellum singer Hillary Scott posted, “Heaven gained a talented man today. Mr. Andy Griffith, thanks for giving me amazing memories with my family growing up watching your show!”
Meanwhile, Kings of Leon star Nathan Followill has urged fans to check out his favourite Griffith film: “RIP Andy Griffith. One of my favorite tv actors of all time. I can hear him whistling the (Andy Griffith Show) theme song all the way to the pearly gates. Do yourself a favor and watch ‘A Face in the Crowd’. One of the best performances ever.”
Actress Denise Richards, filmmaker Kevin Smith, Bones actor David Boreanaz and Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams have also paid tribute to the late star online, and country singer Chely Wright has hailed Griffith as a “classic TV star”, adding, “He was one of the good guys.”