Home / Stories / The farmer Rafe Hollister passed on a chance to be one of Mayberry”s biggest breakout stars
The farmer Rafe Hollister passed on a chance to be one of Mayberry”s biggest breakout stars
Jack Prince turned down a chance to be a series regular but said he was proud to be a small part of The Andy Griffith Show.
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We”ve already told you the story of how Rafe Hollister actor Jack Prince met Andy Griffith on Broadway.
They became fast friends behind the scenes of the Broadway show Destry Rides Again, bonding over their considerable talents for singing, and soon Andy was asking Jack to come by his dressing room to pal around. “He”d invite me for coffee, but he didn”t have any cream or sugar,” Prince said, according to The Andy Griffith Show fan podcast Two Chairs No Waiting. “The first time I said I”d go get some from my dressing room, but Andy said, “Not for any coffee to be drunk in my dressing room.””
“So, I learned to like my coffee black, just like Andy Griffith.”
This compromise over coffee was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but once the Broadway show ended, the two men parted ways, Andy to his then-brand-new sitcom, and Jack to singing gigs he booked in Las Vegas.
Andy would make a point to go see Jack perform, because once he liked an actor, Andy Griffith truly became a fan. It was on one of those trips to see Jack sing that Andy floated the idea of Jack doing an episode of The Andy Griffith Show.
Jack said, “Sure!” As long as it worked with his singing gig schedule.
Andy was amenable to that. In 1961, Jack appeared as the moonshiner Ben Sewell in the first season episode “Alcohol and Old Lace.”
By this point, Jack and Andy had become the kind of friends who repaid each other”s visits, so it was Jack”s turn to drop in on Andy. Coming by the set unannounced, Jack surprised Andy, and then Andy surprised Jack by asking if he wanted to guest star in that week”s episode, resulting in Prince”s second appearance on the show, as Luke Rainier in “The Inspector.”
That second episode that Jack did led to another on-set friendship, this time with The Andy Griffith Show director Bob Sweeney.
Curious about Prince”s Las Vegas shows, Sweeney decided to make a trip and see Jack on his own turf. Afterwards, Sweeney found Jack and gushed, “Jack! I had no idea you could sing like that! We”ve got to use your singing in an episode.”
This laid the groundwork for the introduction of Rafe Hollister in the second season episode “Sheriff Barney,” which led to Prince”s final grand appearance on the show, finally belting out a tune in the third season episode “Rafe Hollister Sings.”
Although Sweeney, by that point, had moved on from The Andy Griffith Show, Prince maintained a lasting fondness for the director who pushed for him to sing on national TV.
“Bob spoiled me,” Prince said. “He was good. We had a great rapport. I could read his face and he could read mine, and I would never work for a director that I had that much affection for again.”
On The Andy Griffith Show, Prince appeared in six episodes — only three times as the farmer Rafe Hollister. But that”s not to say the show didn”t try to get him to come back to Mayberry more often.
The story goes that Andy Griffith Show producers followed in the footsteps of the show”s star and Bob Sweeney — they went to Vegas to see Jack sing. Afterward, they approached the singer and asked him if he”d be interested in expanding the part of Rafe Hollister, becoming a regular on the show as commonly seen as characters like Gomer, Goober and Otis.
“Naw, fellas,” Prince said. “I”m a singer. When I can”t sing anymore, I”ll see about acting.”
Don”t go thinking that Prince lacked respect for acting, though. Watching Don Knotts, in his mind, was observing a master at work.
“I have so much admiration for Don,” Prince said. “It”s hard to come to comedy and do the scene the same on every take or make exactly the changes you”re asked to make by the director. He is by far the best actor I have ever worked with.”
Although Prince rejected becoming a Mayberry star as Rafe Hollister — and possibly a future where he became a singing sensation with his own show like Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle — he still became a familiar face to fans of the show.
When he reprised the song he sings in Mayberry, “Lonesome Road,” on the TNN talk showNashville Now in 1991, viewers were thrilled, according to The Definitive Andy Griffith Show Reference. Another performance he gave in the Nineties during an Andy Griffith Show cast reunion at Opryland in Nashville reportedly drew a large crowd of fans.
Prince never did much acting other than The Andy Griffith Show, but remained grateful for the time he did spend in Mayberry.
“The reason I left Broadway, I was a singer, not an actor,” Prince said. “Unless it was something really simple, or something like The Andy Griffith Show comes along, where you”re working with all these talented people like Andy and Don and Bob Sweeney. The ambience on that show was so great, such pride, everybody on the whole crew, from the writers right down to the lighting men were proud of the work. And I”m proud to have been even a small part of it.”