november 2010 header

The original Dillards in Mayberry: (from left) Dean Webb, Doug Dillard, Mitch Jayne, Rodney Dillard

There Is A Time…
By David McGee

rodney dillard, mayberryI WISH LIFE WAS LIKE MAYBERRY
Rodney Dillard & The Dillard Band
Rural Rhythm

Reliable sources report that a major and much honored bluegrass band is preparing its own tribute album honoring The Andy Griffith Show’s 50th anniversary year, but no musician can claim the higher ground of Mayberry with more authority than Rodney Dillard, a founding member of the legendary Dillards—and hence the Darlings—who appeared on only six episodes during the show’s lifespan, but became welcome guest stars on an unprecedented scale. The Darlings’ solo spots and collaborations with Sheriff Andy (see this publication’s tribute to Sheriff Andy’s 50th in last month’s issue for some of the memorable clips) were so exciting it seems, in retrospect, that they must have made many more than six appearances. At any rate, no other TV sitcom has done so much for bluegrass and mountain music as did Sheriff Andy during his beloved weekly half-hour visits.

‘That was some kind of fine, I’m here to tell ya!’: The Darlings (The Dillards) on The Andy Griffith Show, ‘Ebo Walker.’ Lead vocal by Rodney Dillard.

This disc reprises a few of the Darlings’ Andy Griffith Show classics and fleshes out the remainder of its time with new songs in the pocket with the earlier selections. Dillard has surrounded himself with estimable musicians to carry out his mission: Tim Crouch and George Giddens on fiddle and mandolin, Boone Carlin on bass, Steve Bush on lead guitar and banjo (and mandolin, bass and Ozark Harpolin), with David Creech sitting on lead guitar on the venerable “Dooley,” and Beverly Cotton-Dillard adding harmony vocals and taking a feisty, swaggering lead on the irresistible “Salty Dog,” the arrangement of which allows plenty of leeway for red-hot banjo, guitar and mandolin solos. The assembled multitude wastes no time getting into it, kicking off the music with the self-referential “The Darlin’ Boys,” a co-write between Rodney, Herb Pedersen and original Dillard Mitch Jayne (who passed away this past August) that celebrates the titular characters’ instrumental supremacy in a rousing stomp with an infectious chorus and evocative soloing between verses. From three different Andy episodes the band reprises “There Is a Time,” the moving—literally, it sprints ahead—treatise on there being a season for everything under Heaven, complete with a haunting minor-key melody Rodney brings home with stirring conviction in his deep-set vocal. In addition to “Dooley” and “Salty Dog,” the other song Andy fans will remember from the Darlings’ repertoire is the old-timey “Ebo Walker,” a story-song about an irrepressible mountain fiddler who would rather play (and drink) than work. Leading this “good ol’ man” to be cast out of his own home, yet nonetheless remembered with fondness. The arrangement shuffles along at a catchy, toe-tapping pace, the guitar and banjo spice it up with striking, rippling runs, and Dillard tells the tale with undisguised empathy for its protagonist’s priorities.

The Dillards live at the Tonder Festival in Denmark, 1999, performing a Dillards classic, ‘Dooley.’ Introduction by the late Mitch Jayne, lead vocal by Rodney Dillard.

The four new songs here include two co-writes between Dillard and Dove award winning songwriter Bruce Haynes: “There Goes The Neighborhood,” a humorous, driving, banjo- and mandolin-fueled complaint about well-heeled intruders “without tires on their homes” having the audacity to encroach on turf where they don’t belong (“when they mowed the yards they found our old cars”); “There Was a Time,” a warm, midtempo appreciation of simple pleasures and simple values as a respite from the frantic pace of the modern world. The latter’s theme is reprised more fully and with affecting poignancy by Haynes in his “The Mayberry Hat,” the title chapeau symbolizing the small town mores comprising a fruitful, benevolent lifestyle. From the Bellamy Brothers’ David Bellamy comes the album’s penultimate number, “The Andy Griffith Show,” a soothing, string-enriched country ballad checklist of recognizable show moments recalled from a time when “when your family and your friends’ love and laughter never ends…I wish life was like The Andy Griffith Show”—pretty much summing up the abiding philosophy of the entire project. As a coda, the musical portion of the album ends with an orchestrated instrumental, “Wet Shoes In the Sunset,” an easygoing, banjo-flecked number with gently humming strings advertised as one of several Darlings “missing tracks” but sounding like music to accompany end credits on a film. As a bonus, the CD closes out its program with five episodes (the longest being one minute, four seconds, all the others clocking in at slightly below one minute) drawn from the three-year run of the nationally syndicated radio show, “Mayberry Minute,” with Rodney Dillard narrating Aesop-like fables based on actual Andy Griffith Show episodes, all ending with a moral. These may appeal most to the TV show’s die-hard fans, but the superb bluegrass picking and singing elsewhere on the disc makes I Wish Life Was Like Mayberry much more than a novelty item.—David McGee

Rodny Dillard & The Dillard Band’s I Wish Life Was Like Mayberry is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
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