Meet Andy Griffith

When "The Andy Griffith Show" debuted in 1960, it was an instant hit, due in large part to the folksy personality of its star. But everyoneís favorite sheriff from Mayberry - and loveable lawyer Ben Matlock - didnít start out to become an American television icon. Instead, Andy Griffith entered college to study for the ministry and eventually switched his major to music. After failing in his attempts to break into the New York theater scene, he found fame and fortune portraying Sheriff Andy Taylor, and a entertainment legend was born.

Hollywood may seem like a long way from Mt. Airy, North Carolina, where Andy grew up, but he never forgot his southern roots. At the end of each workday, he and his West Virginian-born costar Don Knotts would relive the good olí days back home as they sang the old-time hymns they had learned as children. It was these memories of home that gave birth to Andyís musical career.

Andyís first recording of hymns, I Love to Tell the Story, sold more than two million copies and won a Grammy Award in 1997 for Best Southern Gospel, Bluegrass Gospel or Country Gospel Album. Twenty-four classic gospel hymns, including "Shall We Gather at the River," "Sweet Hour of Prayer," and "The Old Rugged Cross," evoke a simpler time when families gathered on Sunday mornings at whitewashed country churches. The albumís success naturally pleased Griffith. "Winning the Grammy was such a surprise and thrill for me," Andy said. "You know, all those years doing television, I never really won anything. So, to be recognized for my music was quite an honor." (

Andy so enjoyed sharing the sacred songs of his youth that he released a follow-up recording in March of 1998 entitled Just As I Am. "The new album is better than the first, I think. It has a deeper, richer tone to it." Andy noted. "Thereís a longing for the old that Just As I Am satisfies. These hymns may not be as well known as the ones on the first record, but each one of them is wonderful." ( Lush arrangements of "Power in the Blood," "Church in the Wildwood," "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," and other selections are indeed wonderful, showcasing Griffithís warm, strong voice.

With the encouragement of his wife Cindi and Godís help, Andy Griffith has finally been able to realize a life-long dream. "At the ripe age of 69, Mr. Jesus let me become a singer again," he said. "I do believe my voice sounds better than when I was young - maybe itís like old wood and wine, improved with age." (ProMotion)

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