A quick look at Gomer Pyle USMC and Frank Sutton

I watched a few episodes this weekend. The show has a local connection for me because of Frank Sutton.

The show ran from 1964 to 1969 and was a spinoff from The Andy Griffith Show. The character of Gomer Pyle was portrayed by Jim Nabors and he left The Andy Griffith Show in the 4th season in an episode entitled Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

Gomer was a naive country boy from Mayberry North Carolina who joined the Marines and Andy went with him for the induction and helped the clueless Gomer get accepted. Frank Sutton played quick tempered Sgt Carter who would be tormented by Gomer Pyle for five seasons. I would watch the show as a kid and I thought Sgt Carter was mean to Gomer…as an adult I could understand if Carter would have choked him.

The show was a major hit. It never placed lower than 10 in the Neilson ratings. In 1969 Jim Nabors wanted out because he wanted to do a variety show. No one could understand why he wanted out of a hit show but he wanted to be in a program where he could sing, dance, and do different bits.

CBS offered Nabors a variety show so he was happy. They also offered Frank Sutton his own show Sergeant Carter–USMC. It would employ a black recruit who, unlike Gomer, would always be one step ahead of the Sergeant. It could have been a big hit but he turned it down because he felt like he did everything he could do with the character.

Sutton ended up co-starring with Nabors on his variety show and Sutton worked well in the comedy bits but was not a dancer or singer. CBS told Nabors he had to fire Sutton but Nabors refused and the show was canceled.

The local connection with Sutton is he was born in Clarksville Tennessee, a few miles from where I live. Sutton appeared in movies and shows from the 50s thru the 70s. The Twilight Zone, Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke, Route 66 and many more.

He took acting in East Nashville High School and graduated in 1941.

After high school, Sutton returned to Clarksville to become a radio announcer. He enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II and served in the South Pacific, taking part in 14 assault landings. Sutton was a sergeant who served from 1943–1946 in the 293rd Joint Assault Signal Company. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart; he had been medically rejected by the Marine Corps.

Frank, a heavy smoker,  would only live to be 50. He would die of a heart attack in 1974 just a few months shy of his 51st birthday. In 2017 a statue of Frank Sutton was unveiled in Clarksville Tn. Here is a link to the story of the unveiling. Statue of Frank Sutton in Clarksville.

Related image

This is an interview with Frank Sutton that was never published around the time of the variety show.






Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

20 thoughts on “A quick look at Gomer Pyle USMC and Frank Sutton”

  1. I grew up watching this- along with all the other comedy shows of that era- the summer diet of Gomer- Gilligan’s Island- Beverly Hillbillies- The Dick Van Dyke Show. and the GOAT The Andy Griffith Show . I am sure I saw every Gomer episode back then- recently I have watched some Gomer- still enjoyable. There is a little spot they play with Carol Barnett talking about Jim Nabors and what a great friend he was. From all I’ve heard about him it doesn’t surprise me one bit that he wouldn’t follow orders and fire Frank Sutton from the show… I miss Jim singing Back Home Again In Indiana at the Indy 500 every year. To me summer would begin when he sang that before the race- and would end when Jerry Lewis would sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone” at the end of the Labor Day Telethon. Now both are gone. …from the show I think Duke- Lou Ann and Col Gray are still living-

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The shows you just mentioned were my after school programs in syndication… especially Gomer and Gillian’s Island… just great fun.

      My respect for Jim Nabors was already high but hearing what he did was great. What a voice the man possessed.i didn’t know about the Indy 500…

      That interview with Sutton is interesting… the interviewer could see a lot of Carter in him.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There actually was no Mayberry, the TV-show town was based on Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy. Gomer had a cousin named Goober Pyle who was also a character on the show and in Mount Airy there is a restaurant named Goobers. I ate there and the food was good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just asked another blogger yesterday who lives in North Carolina if they have been to Mount Airy… I read a good bio called Andy and Don that was really good on both on them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s a really excellent statue. I too thought Sgt. Carter was mean, until I watched the shows again as an adult. I didn’t know any of that about Nabors’ show or why it was cancelled. Nabors must have been an incredibly stand up guy. Frank Sutton really did die young. It’s such a shame.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can remember being confused when I saw how goofy Gomer acted on the show, but then seeing him all dressed up and singing like a star on other shows. I always liked his character at least on Andy Griffith Show. I think I blocked Gomer Pyle USMC out because I have a visual of Sutton screaming at poor Gomer. Sutton reminds of Archie Bunker. That’s very cool you have a celebrity that was born near you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After I watched it again… I would yell at Gomer to lol… no but it made more sense though.

      Yea the AGS was one of the best shows ever. Gomer fit in better there but I guess that was the point.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sad that he died so young. He really was a very talented actor. I recall seeing him in episodes of The Fugutive, The Untouchables, Combat, Gunsmoke, and The Twilight Zone. I thought he was great! I had forgotten that he was a DJ. Thanks for another awesome post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you…It was sad he died so young…I am going to go see that statue soon. I’m still working on the TV Theme post…I should have within a week. Thank you for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Would love to see that statue! Also would love to see the Ralph Kramden one too. I have a couple Blogathons I am currently working on (one of which is about The Honeymooners) … posts are early March.

        Keep up the great work!

        Liked by 1 person

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