Jim Nabors, who the man who definitely sounds better singing than talking, passed away Thursday. His partner, Stan Cadwallader, confirmed the singer-actor died at his Hawaiian residence after battling health issues for a while. He was 87.
Nabors was born James Thurston Nabors on June 12, 1930, in Sylacauga, Alabama to parents, Mavis and Fred Nabors, a policeman. Nabors also had two sisters. He started singing in high school and in church. He went to the University of Alabama. After graduating, he moved to New York City and worked at the UN as a typist.
It was after moving to Los Angeles that Nabors was “discovered” working at a club called The Horn. First, comedian Bill Dana saw Jim’s act and wanted him on “The Steve Allen Show”. Unfortunately, that show was soon canceled. But as luck would have it, actor Andy Griffith saw Jim’s act. In his act at The Horn, he featured a character similar to Goober’s, played by George Lindsey, cousin named Gomer Pyle. Griffith knew Nabors, with his baritone singing voice and his higher-pitched comedic voice would be perfect to play Gomer. He was only signed a short-term contract on “The Andy Griffith Show”. The character proved to be very popular and wound up appearing in 23 episodes. It was on “The Andy Griffith Show” that Nabors’ Pyle uttered his signature phrase, “Gawwwleee!”
Nabors was so popular he was given his own show. With that, the writers had Gomer enlisting in the Marines at the end of Season 4 and so “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C” was created. The cast included Frank Sutton, as Pyle’s drill sergeant, Vince Carter.
Nabors got to show his vocal prowess again during an episode titled “The Show Must Go On”. He sang “Impossible Dream” at a U.S. Navy relief show, accompanied by the Marine Corps Band. The popular sitcom ran for five years on CBS and was always in the top 10 in the ratings. Nabors left the series to try his hand at other activities, including getting his own variety series. He said about his acting career when he decided to leave “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”, “It got down to what you think you want to be: an actor or an entertainer. I want to entertain. I don’t think I’m much of an actor. The only part I ever played was Gomer. I’m the most surprised person around that I’m successful anyway.”
Nabors hosted a variety show, “The Jim Nabors Hour” from 1969 through 1971. After the show’s cancellation, Nabors embarked on a nationwide roadshow. “Impossible Dream” became his signature song. He performed it as his feature number during his stage shows.
Nabors once suffered from a near-fatal case of Hepatitis B. He picked it up during a visit to India. Nabors said he shaved with a straight razor and “whacked his face all up”. In 1994, he suffered from liver failure. Comedienne Carol Burnett helped her friend secure a liver for transplant through an arrangement with the Transplant Division of UCLA Medical Center.
Nabors and his partner, Stan Cadwallader, moved to Hawaii in 1974. He opened a regular show at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Dome called “The Jim Nabors Polynesian Extravaganza”, which ran for two years. Eventually, Nabors retired from show business, except for the occasional guest spot for his friends. Making Hawaii his home, Jim lived in Honolulu and Maui for over 30 years, where he had a macadamia nut farm.
Nabors is survived by his husband, Stan Cadwallader, a former fireman. The couple were married in Seattle in 1975.
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Photos: Detroit News, USA News