I'm writing these liner notes before i've begun sequencing the music of MAYBERRY ROMANCE: MUSIC INSPIRED BY MY HOMETOWN. This CD is a testament to what i deem to be the greatest representation of the ultimate American hometown: Mayberry, North Carolina, U.S.A.
Some people did not understand the violence of my previous full-length album, VIGILANTE ROMANCE. For 2008, i wanted to create an album that would present a place worth protecting at all costs...A place that would justify the aggression of VIGILANTE ROMANCE. These costs include resorting to vigilante justice to preserve the sanctity of what the U.S.A. was intended to be, as represented in Mayberry. VIGILANTE ROMANCE is the means to the end that is MAYBERRY ROMANCE. Would Andy Taylor agree with Commissario Betti's (Maurizio Merli) methods? Of course not. Andy doesn't carry a gun because it is not necessary in Mayberry. But there is no doubt that Betti would give his life to bring about a living environment where guns were unnecessary. Violence is a necessary tool to procure, sanctify, and protect a state of peace.
I do not do tribute music simply because i like the subject matter. There is usually a more meaningful purpose that motivates me. I wanted to make this CD because "The Andy Griffith Show" is good.
Why Mayberry? What is so special about "The Andy Griffith Show" to deserve this album's tribute? The importance of this town is best made evident by watching the show itself. However, i've dissected the show into the following three significant qualities:
01. ROMANTICISM - Mayberry is the portrayal of a home town as it should and ought to be. Does a town like Mayberry exist today? No. Could it exist? I implore you to believe that it can. Why wouldn't you want to live in a town where the spare key to the courthouse is kept outside, above the door frame?
Crime is essentially non-existent in Mayberry. Andy spends just as much time giving advice, delivering groceries, and fishing as he does upholding the law. The most action he and Barney sees comes from the outsiders who attempt to prey on the innocence of Mayberry. Every so often, Andy and Barney arrest a local for bootlegging liquor, but it doesn't get much more serious than that. It is unnecessary to maintain this level of peace with force. The people in Mayberry obey the law because they know it is right to. It is that simple. The clarity of right and wrong is ingrained in the minds of every Mayberrian. Each person's actions are self-policed by a code of ethics that have allowed them to live in a town where the keys to the jail cell are always within arm's reach.
In Mayberry, people look after their neighbor because their neighbor deserves it. Not because they are obligated to do so, but because their neighbor is a good-hearted honest human who is welcomed to visit at dinner time without knocking. Everybody knows everybody. Politeness, courtesy, and good manners are granted to eachother naturally. Even the bad seeds of Mayberry (Otis Campbell, Rafe Hollister, Ernest T. Bass, etc...) can be trusted to watch your children...Well maybe not Ernest T...
Mayberry is a self-sufficient town. Every business is independently owned and operated. All of the money that is earned in Mayberry is recirculated back into the town. Mayberry feeds itself. It is possible to earn enough money from your trade to afford a house and family. Although Andy and Barney are state employees, in many ways Mayberry is an example of capitalism in action.
Life in Mayberry is slow and easy. This is not because people are afraid of progress, but because life is more enjoyable when it is savored. The citizens of Mayberry work hard during the week, but it is balanced with a healthy amount of well-earned "settin'". The frivalous trends of the rest of the world, the rush toward irrational greed, and the insatiable hunger to outdo the family down the street are all willfully ignored in Mayberry.
The cover of MAYBERRY ROMANCE borrows an image from what i consider to be the quintessential episode: "Man in a Hurry". This episode tells the story of Malcom Tucker, a scowling business man who is on his way to Raleigh when his car breaks down leaving him stranded in Mayberry on a Sunday afternoon. Most of the town closes on Sundays and he is unable to find someone to repair his car. Malcom has spent his years striving to obtain more wealth and power without ever understanding why he wanted it. By middle age, he had forgotten how to enjoy life itself. The innocence and tranquility of the town infuriates him. In response to his contempt for Mayberry he is granted home cooked meals, front porch singalongs, and various acts of kindness. He is on the brink of hysteria when Gomer and Goober repair his car (for free, because it was Sunday) and get him on his way. As he's ready to back out of Andy's driveway, the generosity of the town convinces him that his happiness would be best served if he stayed in Mayberry for a little while longer. The episode ends with Malcom sleeping in a rocking chair with a serene smile on his face.
Life should be enjoyable. Mayberry is a town where the simple feat of living is easily made possible.
02. OPTIMISM - In Mayberry, even strangers are usually presumed to be innocent before proven guilty.
If i were to cite which quality of "The Andy Griffith Show" i find most remarkable it would be the following: When the benevolence of someone's character is in doubt, the benefit of that doubt is always given in his favor. In countless episodes someone will appear to be committing a crime of sorts. Somebody in the town (usually Barney) will want to lock him up prematurely. Through patience and a belief in the good nature of humanity, Andy always gives the man in question enough rope to hang himself. In the majority of the episodes, the person is not only proven innocent, but their peculiar behavior is shown to be part of a plan to do something great for someone else and to make Mayberry better than before. Not only are these suspicious characters (who represent you and i) innocent, they are virtuous.
This belief in the natural goodness of man was commonly expressed in film and television during the first half of the century. No TV show has exemplified this principle better than "The Andy Griffith Show". Today, every movie and TV show takes the opposite perspective, that of man being born into a life of inescapable sin who is doomed to contribute to the downward spiral of humanity. Mayberry may seem to be fantastic. But should it be?
Perhaps my all time favorite episode, and one that visualizes this unique quality of Mayberry the best, is "Stranger in Town". This episode features a man named Ed Sawyer who has never visited Mayberry but who heard about it from a friend of his during the war. Ed is a man who has no family, few friends, and no hometown to call his own. When the war ended, he subscribed to the Mayberry newspaper. For years, he kept his subscription as the army shuffled him from town to town throughout the country. He fell in love with Mayberry as he learned about it through the variety of local news stories he read. Ed began to memorize most of the towns people's names and life stories. As time went on, Mayberry became a part of him. Ed subconsciously convinced himself that Mayberry was his actual hometown.
Eventually Ed left the army and decided to move to Mayberry as a complete stranger. Even before arriving, he knew the business that he wanted to buy, the color of the paint in the hotel room where he wanted to live, and the girl that he wanted to marry (Lucy Matthews) before ever meeting her. His harmless enthusiasm was greeted with paranoid hostility by the towns people. It was unnerving for them to meet a complete stranger who knew every detail of their lives and who claimed Mayberry to be his birthplace. When he proposes to Lucy, she is convinced that he is some sort of psycho who wishes to harm her. Ed is confronted by a mob of Mayberrians on the street outside the courthouse. They violently try to run him out of town. As usual, Andy becomes the voice of reason. He explains to the mob how Ed knows so much about them; That he picked Mayberry from every city in the country to be his home because of the virtues of all those who were blindly condemning him. Hearing this truth from Andy, the crowd feels rightfully ashamed. The episode ends with Ed Sawyer being embraced by the town. Of course he also gets the girl in the end!
"Stranger in Town" is a very important episode because, with Ed's love of the town, we are introduced to what makes Mayberry a wonderful place to live. William Lanteau (Ed Sawyer) is exemplary in his depiction of quirky individualism. The script is brilliantly written to keep the audience guessing how Ed could know so much about Mayberry. Some townspeople accuse him of being from "the afterlife". The rational explanation of his knowledge serves as a victory of reason over mysticism. And finally, this episode (and much of the show) is important because it shatters the stereotype of the American South. Small town justice in The South is not crooked, but as fair as (if not moreso) than the rest of the country. And also, the people who live in rural America are not xenophobic.
For those characters who are proven guilty, Mayberry always offers the hope of rehabilitation...And it usually works! It is the wholesomeness of Mayberry that leads the unsavory folks (again, usually outsiders) to reform their ways. Some wonderful episodes that exemplify this quality include "Bailey's Bad Boy", "High Noon in Mayberry", and "Opie's Hobo Friend". These episodes profess an innate dignified goodness that exists in all men. Sometimes this goodness is buried deep down, but it is there. In Mayberry no man is doomed unless he willingly dooms himself.
This optimistic allowance for redemption makes "The Andy Griffith Show" stand out amongst other TV shows of its era. Mayberry is a monument of goodness unseen by today's trough of entertainment.
03. QUALITY CRAFTSMANSHIP - Last but not least, "The Andy Griffith Show" is one of the best made TV shows of all time.
I do not mean to diminish the importance of this aspect of the show by listing it thirdly. The writing is impeccable. The characters are well crafted on paper and brought brilliantly to life on camera. There is a balance of drama and comedy that is so well blended that every episode is a reward in itself. The stage setup is beautifully crafted to make the town look extremely realistic.
The musical score on "The Andy Griffith Show" is the best of any TV show ever. Not only does the show have the catchiest theme song, but each character has a recurring theme that plays differently depending on the episode. The actors' actions are punctuated with live orchestration. All of this is brought to life with the occaisional on-set musicianship of Andy and The Dillards. There is no stock music in Mayberry.
Putting the morality of the show aside, watching "The Andy Griffith Show" is a feast for the artistry alone.
I would imagine that there have been other tributes made to Mayberry, although i have not heard any. From the very first episode i ever saw of the show, i wanted to do my own tribute. I have spent a few years deciding how and when i wanted to make this record. Being that i've moved around again to another strange town, my family being distant, and without any friends to call my own...i find myself feeling much like Ed Sawyer in "A Stranger in Town"...except without the pleasure of knowing a real life "Mayberry". Day after day i see the U.S.A. falling apart at the seams. Mayberry appears more and more like a distant fantasy -- But so are all of my ideals. It seems that everything that i cherish in existence is a concept unknown in reality...but SHOULD be known in reality. Therefore, on metaphysical terms, i consider Mayberry to be my hometown.
Although i often feel doomed to wander the country endlessly searching for a place that doesn't exist, i refuse to submit to defeat. As dark as the world becomes, i refuse to surrender to the notion that Mayberry is an impossible utopia. I will continue searching year after year with romance in my heart never giving in to the heavy weight of the cynicism that permeates our culture.
If this CD is your first introduction to Mayberry, then i urge you to seek out the show itself (especially the first 4 seasons). As far as i know, it is the only TV show that has never been off the air since it's inception. It has been in syndication for some 40 years now. Each season is also available on DVD. In addition, many episodes have become public domain and are available to watch for free online.
The following will be the track listing of MAYBERRY ROMANCE. The first 12 songs are dedicated to a different character on the show, stressing what i find to be their most essential virtue. The 13th song is a cover of one of The Dillards most famous numbers...and one which i think encapsulates the romance of Mayberry better than anything i could ever hope to write.
01. Aunt Bea's Beneficence
02. Helen Crump's Sagacity
03. Ellie Walker's Independence
04. Mary Simpson's Amelioration
05. Thelma Lou's Devotion
06. Andy Taylor's Judiciousness
07. Barney Fike's Amiability
08. Opie Taylor's Honesty
09. Gomer Pyle's Patriotism
10. Otis Cammpbell's Joviality
11. Rafe Holister's Humility
12. Ernest T. Bass's Eccentricity
13. There is a Time
Thank you for reading this text and (hopefully) for buying this CD. For fans of the show, i hope this unorthodox musical approach provides a new perspective on what makes Mayberry so special. For those who do not know the show, i hope that the serenity of these songs allow the wandering of your mind to inspire you to seek out your own special place on Earth.
January 22, 2008