'The Andy Griffith Show': The Truth About Andy and Don Knotts' Real-Life Friendship

The Andy Griffith Show was grounded by the on-screen comradery of Andy Griffith's Andy Taylor and Don Knotts' Barney Fife. The two's adventures in Mayberry made them an inseparable TV duo that has become iconic. However, many fans of The Andy Griffith Show, which remains heavily syndicated, have often wondered if Griffith and Knotts were a close off-set as they were when cameras rolled.

Andy and Don, The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, a 2016 book by Daniel de Visé, covers how the two met in the 1950s, a decade before the iconic show made its debut. To sum up, how strong their bond was, Griffith was by Knotts' side in his final days. "Though their Mayberry partnership lasted only until 1965, the two remained best friends for life," de Visé said in an interview. "Andy was with Don in 2006 at his deathbed."

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(Photo: Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images, Getty)

In a separate interview with Closer, Ron Howard told the outlet that the two were a perfect match for each other. He recalled how Griffith was so receptive of Knotts' comedy, even to a point where he couldn't even contain himself. "Andy was the world’s greatest audience for Don,” Ron shared. “Don had Andy literally in tears once a week.” Having come from similar backgrounds, the two hit it off right from the jump. "They were two Southern guys with similar backgrounds, stories, and childhoods, so they were drawn to each other instantly," the author said in that same interview.

The Andy Griffith Show debuted in 1960 and ran for eight seasons until 1968. Along with Griffith and Knotts, the series also starred Ronny Howard and Francis Bavier. Knotts tenure on the show didn't span the whole length, however, after he walked away from the series in 1965 after the fifth season.

In an interview, Knotts explained that his decision to leave wasn't out of spite; it was simply because he was told it would be for just five seasons when he first signed up for the show. So when the first five years wrapped up, Knotts began to look for more work and signed a deal with Universal to do movies. "It was a tough time for me because I enjoyed the show so much that I hated to leave," he explained. "I never expected it to go on." Since the ending, the series has continued to live on in the pop culture scene. The show has reached new audiences decades later thanks to the success of its reruns on cable television and for its streaming.