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Music and Mayberry

Submitted Photo Larry DeLawder is seen here in character as the beloved, clumsy deputy Barney Fife from the 1960s TV series "The Andy Griffith Show."

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The DeLawder family and the country’s favorite deputy, Barney Fife, to visit Grace Community Church

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

Be aware, crooks, the nerdiest and most beloved — though inept — law enforcement officer is coming to town. Barney Fife, portrayed by Don Knotts in the 1960s television series “The Andy Griffith Show,” has found a new way to create havoc.

In the show “Mayberry Memories,” a senior adult event at Grace Community Church, the bumbling deputy Fife is portrayed by award-winning musician and Barney Fife impersonator Larry DeLawder, who is accompanied by his family: his wife, Sara DeLawder, and their daughters, Hannah and Faith.

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DeLawder, as Fife, has performed in Branson, Missouri, and knows all mannerisms of the iconic character so well that the audience will be swept back in time to the sleepy southern town of Mayberry.

It’s a time when folks only needed to worry about Fife accidentally firing off his gun every time he tried to load it. Or to figure out how he would keep the peace when his cousin and friend, Sheriff Andy Taylor, left to go fishing.

“We don’t even have a radio dispatcher, nor a crime lab, nor a fingerprint filer, a teletype machine, or a radar — we don’t even have a ‘heeliocopter,’” Fife used to say. Once he had to lock up the entire town. Hopefully his Roswell audience behaves so he doesn’t need to find out how “them modern jails kinda work.”

In a phone interview, DeLawder talked about how he became Fife. In 1997 he began traveling with Gary McSpadden, an experience that lasted three and a half years. During that time, he also performed on McSpadden’s popular TV show “Gary McSpadden’s Gospel Jubilee,” playing harmonica, performing comedy and impersonating Barney Fife. McSpadden had encouraged DeLawder to add Barney Fife into his act.

“It was his idea to do the impersonation on stage. I was very nervous but finally got the courage to do it and (have been) doing it ever since,” he said.

However, the show the DeLawder family is bringing to Roswell entails much more, DeLawder said. While the Barney Fife character will appear throughout the show, the family will be singing as well. “I use the hat as transition. When I put the hat on, I talk like Barney,” DeLawder said. “Then, I take the hat off and we’ll sing and I’ll do the harmonica. That way it has a much better flow. I do some really fast playing. With Barney it makes a nice package. Plus, we also share testimony.”

DeLawder also has traveled and performed with several well-known artists, including the Dixie Melody Boys in 1987. He was a part of the Singing At Sea Gospel Cruise for four consecutive years. At the National Quartet Convention (NQC) in Nashville, Tennessee, DeLawder was nominated seven years for the Singing News Fan Awards as Instrumentalist of the Year. He also was nominated for and received the Hearts Aflame Award for Instrumentalist of the Year. In 2017, at NQC’s 60th anniversary, DeLawder was mentioned as being “the highlight of the reunion.”

DeLawder’s personal ministry has taken him throughout the U.S. and Canada, where he has performed in front of thousands.

Asked how he and his family faired when the pandemic hit, he said, “Our last date was March 15, 2020, and then we didn’t have anything until probably late August. And it was only a couple of things, kind of hit and miss because a lot of churches had shut their doors. But there were a few churches that were smaller and a couple of them were doing things outside. When you are not working there’s no money coming in. It is difficult to pay the bills. But you know what? The Lord, he supplied and he met our needs. We didn’t go hungry; he worked everything out.”

DeLawder said that he and his family are excited to be back on the road and to perform in Roswell. “It will be fun. We’ll have a good time,” he said.

The show is offered free of charge, but donations are accepted. The show takes place Oct. 22, from 4-5:30 p.m., at Grace Community Church, 935 W. Mescalero Road.

For more information, visit roswellgrace.com.

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