If you are a fan of classic TV shows, you might have wondered if there is any connection between two actors who share the same last name: Denver Pyle and Gomer Pyle. Denver Pyle played Briscoe Darling on The Andy Griffith Show, and later Uncle Jesse on The Dukes of Hazzard. Gomer Pyle was the character name of Jim Nabors, who starred in The Andy Griffith Show and its spin-off, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Both shows were set in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina, and featured many of the same characters and actors.
So, are Denver Pyle and Gomer Pyle related in real life? The answer is no. Despite their common surname and TV appearances, they are not blood relatives or even distant cousins. Here are some facts that explain why.
The Origin of the Name Pyle
According to Ancestry.com, the name Pyle is of English origin, derived from a place name meaning “a stake or pole used as a landmark or boundary”. It is also a variant of the name Pile, which has the same meaning. The name is common in southern England, especially in Somerset and Devon.
Denver Pyle was born in Bethune, Colorado, on May 11, 1920. His parents were Ben H. Pyle and Maude Pyle. His brother was Willis Pyle, an animator who worked for Walt Disney and UPA. Denver Pyle traced his ancestry to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Germany.
Jim Nabors was born in Sylacauga, Alabama, on June 12, 1930. His parents were Fred Nabors and Mavis Pearl Nabors. His brother was Freddie Nabors, a police officer. Jim Nabors traced his ancestry to England and Wales.
The Creation of the Character Gomer Pyle
The character of Gomer Pyle was created by Everett Greenbaum and Jim Fritzell, writers for The Andy Griffith Show. They based the character on an incompetent gas station attendant whom Greenbaum met and named after Gomer Cool, a writer, and Denver Pyle, an actor on The Andy Griffith Show.
Jim Nabors was cast to play Gomer after Andy Griffith discovered him performing at a Santa Monica nightclub. He made his debut on the show in 1962, in an episode titled “The Bank Job”. He became a regular character in seasons 3 and 4, and then starred in his own spin-off show from 1964 to 1969.
Denver Pyle appeared on The Andy Griffith Show as Briscoe Darling, the patriarch of a hillbilly family who often clashed with the townsfolk of Mayberry. He played the role in six episodes between 1963 and 1966. He also appeared in one episode of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., as a different character named Grandpa Morrison.
The Relationship Between Denver Pyle and Jim Nabors
Although they were not related by blood or marriage, Denver Pyle and Jim Nabors were friends and colleagues who worked together on several TV shows. Besides The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., they also appeared together on The Doris Day Show (where Denver played Buck Webb, Doris’s father) and The Jim Nabors Hour (where Denver was a guest star).
Denver Pyle praised Jim Nabors for his talent and versatility as an actor and singer. He said: “Jim is one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with. He can do anything – comedy, drama, music. He’s a very gifted person.”
Jim Nabors also admired Denver Pyle for his professionalism and kindness as an actor and person. He said: “Denver was a wonderful man. He was always very helpful to me when I was starting out. He was very generous with his time and advice. He was a great actor and a great friend.”
Denver Pyle and Gomer Pyle were not related in real life. They were two actors who shared the same surname by coincidence. They played different characters on The Andy Griffith Show and its spin-off, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., but they also worked together on other TV shows. They had a friendly and respectful relationship that lasted until Denver’s death in 1997. Jim passed away in 2017. They are both remembered as icons of American television history.