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About James Thurston Nabors
While better known as an actor thanks to his immortal role as television's bumbling Gomer Pyle, Jim Nabors became a popular guest on variety shows in the 1960s and 1970s (including two specials of his own in 1969 and 1974) after revealing a rich baritone voice. He subsequently recorded numerous albums and singles, most of them containing romantic ballads.
He was born James Thurston Nabors on June 12, 1930 to Mavis and Fred Nabors in Sylacauga, Alabama, where he sang for his high school and church. He attended the University of Alabama, where he began acting in skits. While at Alabama he became a member of Delta Tau Delta International Fraternity. After graduating, he moved to New York, where he worked as a typist for the United Nations; after a year, he moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he got his first job in the television industry as a film cutter. Because of his asthma, Nabors moved to Los Angeles and worked as a film cutter for NBC.
While working as a cabaret singer at a Santa Monica nightspot called The Horn in 1962, Andy Griffith came in for drinks. Griffith, though, was more impressed by Nabors' banter between songs than with his singing, and he asked Nabors to audition for a one-time appearance on his top-rated The Andy Griffith Show, a role of gas station attendant Gomer Pyle. Essentially a build-up to a punchline (Griffith explained to a nonplused stranger that the goofy Gomer planned to become a brain surgeon), Nabor's hayseed character proved so popular that he became a regular on the series. In 1964, with Griffith's manager Richard O. Linke calling the shots, Nabors was spun off into his own weekly sitcom, Gomer Pyle USMC, which ran for five successful seasons.
Televiewers got their first inkling that there was more to Nabors than Gomer when, on a 1964 Danny Kaye Show, he revealed his rich, well-modulated baritone singing voice. He went on to record 16 popular record albums, utilizing his high-pitched Gomer voice in only one of them (1965's Shazzam). Nabors' larynx was further deployed on his TV variety series The Jim Nabors Show (1969-72), on the 1967 opening episode (and every subsequent season opener) of The Carol Burnett Show, and in countless personal appearances all over the world.
Additionally, Nabors starred in such 1970s Saturday morning kiddie efforts as Krofft Supershow, The Lost Saucer and Buford and the Galloping Ghost (voice only). He played his first serious role as a vengeful hillbilly on a 1973 episode of TVs The Rookies, and essayed comic supporting parts in such good-ole-boy films as Cannonball Run (1978) and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), both starring his close friend Burt Reynolds.
Because Nabors never married, he found himself the target of numerous ugly and unfounded rumors concerning his private life. When he became deathly ill in the mid-1980s, there were those who jumped to the conclusion that Nabors had contacted AIDS. In fact, he had fallen victim to a particularly vicious form of hepatitis, picked up (according to Nabors) when he cut himself while shaving in India. Nabors recovered from his ailment after a highly publicized liver transplant saved his life.