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Jim Nabors (1930 – 2017)
Posted 03 December 2017 - 10:52 PM
From the Indianapolis Star:
"Nabors was 87.
Nationally, Nabors was best known for his portrayal of big-hearted rube Gomer Pyle on the sitcoms "The Andy Griffith Show" and its spinoff "Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C."
But in Indianapolis he was the revered voice of "Back Home Again in Indiana," a song he performed before the start of the Indianapolis 500-Mile-Race nearly every year from 1972 until 2014. In the century-plus old, tradition-soaked Memorial Day weekend event, there were few bigger traditions than Nabors and his booming baritone.
It all came about through a misunderstanding. Nabors first visited the Speedway in 1972 while in Indianapolis for a song-and-dance performance with Florence Henderson. He was a Las Vegas headliner at the time.
Later that year he attended his first Indianapolis 500 as the guest of Bill Harrah, the Vegas impresario and race fan. The Speedway's owner, Tony Hulman, knew Harrah and dropped by his seat for a brief visit on race morning. Hulman recognized Nabors from television."He said, 'Welcome; want to sing?' " Nabors recalled in a 2007 IndyStar interview. " 'Sure,' I said."
It was a last-minute proposition. He was to go on in 20 minutes. Nabors assumed he'd been asked to sing the national anthem. Only moments before showtime was he told otherwise.
Nabors stayed cool — he knew the tune to "Back Home Again in Indiana," but not all the lyrics. He scribbled some key words on his hand. He pulled it off and since that year missed just a handful of Indy 500s.
Nabors was never paid for singing at the Speedway and never asked to be. He received expenses only. He was casual in his approach to his duties. He never practiced "Back Home Again in Indiana," not even in the shower. Not once did he rehearse with the Purdue University Marching Band, which year after year accompanied him.
No matter. Fans rose and some even wept at Nabors' rendering of the sentimental song, with its wistful references to sycamore trees, "new-mown hay" and the "moonlight on the Wabash."
"If fans were asked: 'Who is the most beloved, iconic person in the history of the track, I bet you (Nabors) would be No. 1," said Donald Davidson, the long-time track historian and radio personality, who himself would be in the running for most beloved.
"Very sad to hear about Jim Nabors passing away," said two-time Indy winner Al Unser Jr. via Twitter. "He was a tradition at the speedway that I always looked forward to listening to before I got in the car."
"We will never forget his genuine kindness, sincerity and loyalty," said the Hulman-George family in a written statement. "He was a wonderful man who inspired millions of people across the globe every May and throughout his entire life."
Nabors, in real life Pyle-modest even though he was a celebrity, downplayed his status at the Speedway, telling the IndyStar toward the end of his storied run that it was the song people go gaga for, not him. "It's just a beautiful song," he said in a phone interview. "It'd make anyone nostalgic, no matter where they were raised."
His TV shtick was to talk in a high-pitched, hillbilly voice (Nabors was born in a small town in Alabama) but to sing in a deep, melodious baritone. So popular was the juxtaposition on "Andy Griffith" that Nabors soon was starring in his own show, his character having joined the U.S. marines.
Nabors is survived by his husband, Stan Cadwallader. The two married in Seattle in 2013 after being together for 38 years."
I was one of those, also, that grew up with the Andy Griffith show. As a kid, Jim Nabor's singing voice always amazed me! We still have his Christmas vinyl album somewhere as a result of Mr. blues and I trying to buy a Christmas record as newlyweds when we had zero money. The Jim Nabors one was on sale for , I think, 75 cents !
Posted 09 December 2017 - 09:55 PM
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