Editor’s note: The following remembrance of “Andy Griffith Show” associate producer Dick Linke, who died at age 98 at his home in Holualoa, Hawaii, on June 15, 2016, is drawn chiefly from a profile that TAGSRWC published in the May 1996 issue of our longtime printed newsletter, The Bullet.
Mayberry’s Solid Chain Forged with Richard O. Linke
You won’t see his face in any of the 249 episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show,” but his influence touched all of Mayberry. Every watcher of the “Griffith” show has seen his name countless times in the closing credits: Associate Producer…Richard O. Linke.
Even more significant is that he served as Any Griffith’s personal manager for 37 years, and helped guide the careers of Mayberry’s Jim Nabors, Ken Berry, Maggie Peterson, Ronnie Schell, among other top stars, such as Frankie Avalon, Bobby Vinton, Forrest Tucker and Jerry Van Dyke. When the idea was born to create Mayberry, the name Richard O. Linke meant business. This is the story of Mayberry’s behind-the-scenes Linke to the rest of the world.
Richard Oscar (Dick) Linke was born on October 23, 1917, and he called the Mayberry-sized town of Summit, N.J., his hometown. His German father Paul Alfred (who worked in textiles) and Austrian mother Rose met in Brooklyn, N.Y., after immigrating. The couple settled in Summit, where they raised young Dick and older brother Paul Alfred, Jr. (killed at Guadalcanal during World War II), and younger sister Arline.
As Dick attended high school in Summit (before the Linke family eventually moved to the Forest Hills area on Long Island), he already knew that he wanted to be involved in the entertainment business. When it came time to pick a college, Dick, who had never been farther south or west than Pennsylvania, chose Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, largely because some older buddies from Summit had gone to school there.
It proved to be one of the many right choices Dick would make in plotting his career. He enjoyed the university and received a solid education as he earned his bachelor of science degree in journalism. After graduation in 1941, Dick made a beeline for New York City, where he took a job as file clerk with the Wide World Photos division of the Associated Press.
“It was a stoogey, tedious job,” Dick recalled later, “but I knew their reputation could help me later on.” And he also made the most of his AP job in the present. “I’d roam around all over the building meeting everybody. I knew I had to meet people,” Dick said. “Just by doing my job and being ambitious, I got to know everybody.”
After about two years with the AP, Dick joined the respected New York public relations firm of Earle Ferris & Company, where he handled publicity for 40 radio stations. “We would place photos of radio shows at the wire services. “I was basically a ‘legman’ — just pounding the street — no taxis. I walked,” Dick remembered. “I loved it, and the city was exciting in those days. It was tough work, but I did it.”
A year later, Dick advanced up another step to work for the Newell-Emmett Company, where one of his accounts was a new show called “The Chesterfield Supper Club,” which starred a young Perry Como. “It hit the jackpot,” Dick said. It was also while at the Newell-Emmett that Dick met advertising/public relations legend Michael Nidorf. “He became my mentor,” Dick says. “A sharp guy from Philly.” After two successful years with that agency, Dick accepted an offer from the Ben Sonnenberg Agency, which represented a lot of corporate accounts, but needed an entertainment specialist to handle the account for “The New Milton Berle Show.”
One day in 1947, Michael Nidorf advised Dick, “You ought to be in the record business.” Nidorf told Dick about a new company called Capitol Records that was based on the West Coast. “He said they were a fledgling company and needed a man in New York City,” Dick recalled.
Dick took the job, but later admitted, “I didn’t know anything about the record business.” But he learned. And with Capitol’s roster including stars such as Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, Peggy Lee and bandleader Stan Kenton, Dick knew he had to learn fast. “I had to get to know all of the deejays in the city and on a national level. I covered the country. I really worked it hard.”
But all of his hard work didn’t prevent Dick from getting “caught in a cutback” at Capitol in 1949, and he found himself needing to find other career opportunities. So Dick went to work for orchestra leader and fellow Ohio University alumnus Sammy Kaye. “He hired me as his advance man. I’d pave the way in towns where the band was going and get the radio stations to play his records, check to make sure the record stores were stocked and get the newspapers to do stories.”
After a good year with Sammy Kaye, Dick discovered another promising opportunity. “I heard about a big manager who wanted to sell out, so I bought the company and started Richard O. Linke Publicity.” The record promotion company’s first two clients were Doris Day (not yet a star) and Gordon MacRae.
Soon after completing a successful first year with his new firm, Dick recalled, “I was pleasantly surprised to get a call from Hal Cook (my old boss at Capitol Records). He offered me a job back — unheard of in those days — and made me National Promotion Manager. He was responsible for getting me Andy Griffith.” Here’s how:
In the fall of 1953, Dick remembered, “There was quite a bit of interest in Andy Griffith’s ‘Football’ record (produced by a man named Orville Campbell and his Colonial Records label) that was being played by a lot of radio stations regionally [down South] during football season. We got the O.K. from Capitol to buy the record for $10,000 and we signed Andy Griffith with Capitol. I was assigned unofficially to take care of Andy. I was his unofficial manager. I didn’t take any money from Andy in those days. I officially started with Andy on January 4, 1954.” (The two became partners even though, as both men would later have fun recalling, Andy felt that Dick’s “teeth were too close together,” which Andy must have thought was reason for suspicion — or at least some good-natured needling).
Close teeth notwithstanding, “What It Was, Was Football” went on to become a huge national hit for Capitol. “We sold at least a million,” says Dick, “which was a lot for a comedy record in those days.” (Or for any record in any day. It’s still one of the most-requested and beloved recordings among Andy Griffith fans more than six decades later)
But first things first: Capitol brought Andy to New York, and Dick began work immediately to get Andy even broader exposure. They got an audition for “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and, now in association with the William Morris Agency, were signed for four appearances (and the Sullivan people wanted even more). However, “Andy bombed,” Dick states with characteristic directness, “but at least he got the exposure and got his name and face out there.”
Dick realized Andy needed to develop. “Andy needed time to hone his act. But you can’t send Andy to the Catskills,” Dick once said about the traditional training ground for young comedians. “So we booked him all through the South and Southwest. He hated it, but it did the trick. He learned and he was very popular.”
While Andy Griffith was learning from the road, Dick Linke had accepted a position with Columbia Records as Singles Sales Manager (where he became personal friends with label stars such as Rosemary Clooney, Jerry Vale and Tony Bennett, who remained a good friend through all the decades later), but he also continued to provide guidance to Andy.
After about a year and a half on the road, Andy was up to quota on nightclubs when he heard about a novel by Mac Hyman called No Time for Sergeants, which, as luck would have it, was about to be produced as a live presentation for ABC-TV’s “U.S. Steel Hour.” A meeting eventually was arranged with the show’s producers, and Andy was so convincing that he got not only the TV part of Will Stockdale, but also the starring role for the upcoming Broadway play and the later feature film production.
The Broadway play opened on October 20, 1955, to “11 rave reviews from all 11 New York newspapers,” remembered Dick. Near the end of the play’s long run on Broadway, Hollywood beckoned in the person of famed director Elia Kazan, who wanted Andy Griffith for the part of Lonesome Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd (1957). The well-received film version of No Time for Sergeants followed in 1958.
In the midst of these successes, Dick Linke left Columbia Records in order to devote full time to managing Andy Griffith, and on October 1, 1957, he formed Richard O. Linke and Associates.
With the lukewarm reception of Onionhead (1958), a less-inspired attempt to capitalize on the appeal of Sergeants, stunting the flow of good movie offers, Dick and Andy decided their best next move was to head back to Broadway for a 1959 revival of Destry Rides Again, with Andy in the lead role as the sheriff. But Dick worked to keep Andy Griffith’s name percolating among TV executives both in Hollywood and New York. Then one day, producer Sheldon Leonard called with an idea for a series starring Andy as a small-town sheriff.
“Andy liked what Sheldon had to say,” Dick recalled later. Andy took a break from Destry in the first week of January 1960 to film the “pilot” (actually an episode of “The Danny Thomas Show”) for the new series. The episode aired on February 15. “General Foods bought the show through Benton & Bowles Advertising, and we started filming in July 1960.”
Dick continued, ” In the middle of June, I went to California and sublet an apartment and got ready for the big move from New York.” Dick took care of all of the details. He found houses for both Andy’s family and his own, which enabled Andy simply to move out after the Fourth of July and immediately begin filming “The Andy Griffith Show.” A decade-long TV empire was now under construction, and Dick Linke was the financial architect (as well as the binding mortar between many of the bricks).
What Dick was building more than anything was a team. “You get to the point where you have various clients, and everybody is looking out for the other guy. If something comes up where somebody can use somebody else in a show, we would. We really were like a family,” Dick says.
Among the actors “Linked” to Mayberry on their way to bigger career moves were Bill Bixby (who with Dick’s guidance starred in “My Favorite Martian” a year later), Jerry Van Dyke (who went on to “Headmaster” and Angel in My Pocket before his ultimate stardom on TV’s long-running “Coach”), Ken Berry (a client for 30 years, who was managed from “F-Troop,” along with fellow Linke client Forrest Tucker, through “Mayberry R.F.D.” and on to “Mama’s Family”), Larry Hovis (who passed through Mayberry as a stepping stone to playing Carter on “Hogan’s Heroes”) and Ronnie Schell (two Mayberry appearances in addition to playing Duke Slater on “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”).
Dick also represented Jim Nabors for nine years after Andy Griffith and Dick discovered Jim at a Los Angeles nightclub. And 10 years earlier, Dick had discovered Maggie Peterson in Estes Park, Colo., when she was barely a teenager and singing with a quartet billed as Margaret Ann and the Ja-Da’s. Dick once said, “I told her father, ‘She’s got a lot of talent, but she’s too young. When she gets older — when she’s 18 — and she still wants to be a performer, tell her to come see me.’ And I gave him my card. Well, she turned 18 and she found me. I managed her and the band until the boys decided they wanted to go to college.”
Dick then put Maggie together with top jazz musician Ernie Mariani for a group billed as Maggie Peterson and the Ernie Mariani Trio. “They played all the top places in Vegas, Reno, Tahoe, New York City, Miami. They were a big success,” Dick says with fondness. “When the Darling family came along, I knew Maggie was a natural.”
And Dick’s good sense about all forms of entertainment served him well with clients such as Frankie Avalon (a client for nine years) and Bobby Vinton (one year). In fact, looking over Dick’s career client list, it’s revealing to see how many were able to develop double- and triple-threat capabilities of singing and acting, and often stand-up comedy and dancing.
Much of that cross-pollination of talents among Dick’s clientele came from Dick’s ability to spot talent where others sometimes didn’t see it, as when he raised eyebrows by bringing an unknown “hillbilly” to New York once upon a time. (“What did I see in Andy Griffith?” Dick asked in a 1970 New York Times interview. “If you want to know the truth, I saw my whole future.”)
Some of that diversity of skills among Dick’s clients was more than merely discovered by Dick. It was nurtured by his all-encompassing approach to entertainment and his own coming up through the ranks. “You have to go in phases,” Dick explains. “Fortunately, on my way up, I had a taste of everything — radio, records, commercials, personal appearances. You’ve got to touch everything. As a personal manager, you can’t afford to make a couple mistakes, or you’re out, too — along with your client. You’ve got to be well-schooled.”
It was Dick’s role to advise Andy and his other clients and to look out for their best interests, especially the financial ones. “I always likened a performer to a product,” Dick once said. “You merchandise them the same way.”
In another analogy, he said, “It’s like a company. The performer is the chairman, I’m the president, the accountant is the vice president, William Morris (the talent agency) is a vice president, and so on.”
But make no mistake, Dick Linke’s success as a personal manager was much more complex than simple corporate comparisons. Dick had the reputation for being tenaciously attentive to details and to every aspect of his clients’ presentation and performances. To have the kind of success he was able to build, a person must have an enormous appetite for hard work. (In response to someone’s commentary about how lucky Dick was, he responded directly, “Yeah, and you know something funny about me? The harder I work, the luckier I get.”)
Dick was known for telling it straight. Commenting about what it takes to make it in his business, “You’ve got to want this more than life — if you really want to make it. You’ve got to want it more than everything. And, frankly, that includes family. It’s time consuming. If an actor calls you on Saturday or Sunday, you can’t say, ‘It’s the weekend. Call me Monday.’ You’ve got to be there.”
And throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Dick Linke most surely was “there.” As the manager of either Andy Griffith, Jim Nabors or Ken Berry, he would have been a hot manager. As manager of all three — each with hit shows — he was arguably the hottest manager in Hollywood. He also was part owner of “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” Mayberry R.F.D.” and “The Jim Nabors Hour” (the latter two for which he also served as executive producer).
After eight years of doing the “Griffith” show, Andy Griffith and Dick together decided that eight was truly enough, and they decided to pursue movie deals for Andy. When Angel in My Pocket fizzled at the box office in 1969, Dick was the first to admit that leaving television had been a poorly-timed move for Andy and him, and he immediately began putting together a deal for another TV series. He sold the idea for “Headmaster” to an eager CBS and he then convinced Lever Bros. to be the sponsor.
Constantly on the phone or in meetings from his “second office and second home” at the posh Lakeside Golf Club, Dick would wheel and deal with network executives, agencies and others. And his dealing continued in his personal Cadillac limousine, where a car phone and chauffeur provided him the freedoms for essentially a third office and the ability to waste virtually no time in his all-consuming efforts to give his clients the most complete personal management possible. “Everything was done Triple A all the way,” Dick once said.
But even the sunniest of times eventually have a dark cloud. And 1971 was such a time for Dick Linke and his TV family. CBS abruptly canceled “R.F.D.” even though it was still doing well in the ratings (ranking a strong sixth in the Nielsens the week it was canceled and finishing a solid 15th for the season after two seasons at No. 4), and “The Jim Nabors Hour” and “The New Andy Griffith Show” (a follow-up series to the already failed “Headmaster”) also were canned. By 1972, the dynasty was over. “It was a terrible emotional and financial shock,” Dick says. The chauffeured limo was soon to be a sweet memory of a valuable management vehicle that simply was no longer justifiable.
But Dick Linke was far from through in show business. He was too savvy and tough-minded to drop out of the game. So at the age of 53, he stuck to his knitting and continued weaving work for clients. Andy Griffith took a variety of villainous and tough-guy roles in a deliberate and eventually successful effort to shake his typecasting in Andy Taylor types of roles. So complete was the transformation that, 13 years later, Dick and Andy felt comfortable going back to Mayberry and negotiating a deal for the Return to Mayberry movie (produced for NBC-TV in 1986 and a ratings triumph) and the connected deal for a “Matlock” movie and TV series, which would end up running even longer than “The Andy Griffith Show” (for a total of nine seasons).
Amid the success of “Matlock,” at Andy’s initiation, Andy and Dick agreed to terminate their relationship. It was not an ending Dick wanted, but he accepted it. Always one to be aware of details such as dates, Dick noted that he and Andy last met on December 7, 1990, and they agreed for their business relationship to end on January 4, 1991, exactly 37 years from the day they officially began their partnership.
It was at that time that Dick took stock of what he wanted to do. He and wife Bettina Brenna Linke (who played Gloria Buckles in episodes of “The Beverly Hillbillies”) decided it would be nice to get off the Los Angeles fast track and move to Athens, Ohio, where Dick had many fond memories and had maintained ties.
Dick and Bettina immediately became involved with the Athens community. He accepted a position as adjunct professor in the school of journalism at Ohio University (teaching an upper-level course titled Entertainment Public Relations 492), served on the university’s Foundation Board of Trustees, established the Richard O. Linke Scholarship at the journalism school, and was named to the board and was elected president of the Athens Country Club.
He continued to manage Ken Berry for a few years while in Ohio until that proved to be impractical so far away from Hollywood. (He also managed up-and-coming bluegrass group Rarely Herd for a while, since they were based close by.) For her part, Bettina earned her bachelor’s degree with highest honors from Ohio University, and at age 50 had the distinction of being the oldest graduate of the school’s program in journalism.
Mayberry fans were able to meet Dick Linke at three events in 1995. He was guest of honor at the Mayberry Squad Car Rendezvous in Bradford, Ohio, and at Mayberry Days in Mt. Airy, N.C., plus he was one of 20 Mayberry stars who participated in the 35th Anniversary celebration in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The lure of the big city (combined with perhaps one too many cold winters) drew him back to the Toluca Lake condo he maintained in Los Angeles and to a new home in Hawaii. “We’ve had a great five years in Athens,” Dick said at the time. “But I really like action. I guess I’m just a city boy at heart . I’m going back home.”
Through the years Dick received several awards from Ohio University, including the the Medal of Merit Award in 1959 and the Alumnus of the Year Award in 1967. He was also inducted into the Ohio University Communication Hall of Fame.
“He was just a very powerful champion of Ohio University,” said Robert Stewart, director of the university’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. “He was a very thankful person for the experience he had here back in the late ’30s.”
The Richard O. Linke Scholarship for students of the journalism college continues to be the largest one-year scholarship given annually by the school of journalism.
What parting advice did Dick give his Ohio University students and anyone else who wants to get into personal management? “You’ve got to do your homework — really learn about the business and how best to represent your client. You’ve got to have a multitude of contacts and build a team. And you must have integrity and honesty. Otherwise, forget it.”
Dick eagerly embraced the opportunity for spending more time with his five children and his grandchildren, something his dedication to a demanding business had not always allowed him to do in earlier years.
Dick and Bettina eventually made the move to his spacious home in Holualoa, Hawaii, as their sole residence. Many members of his immediate family also moved to the family compound or nearby in years that followed, which allowed Dick and Bettina to be surrounded by loved ones in his later years.
In addition to wife Bettina, Dick is survived by five children: Paul Linke, Nanci Linke-Ellis (both from a previous marriage), Katharine Elizabeth Linke, Richard Oscar Linke Jr. and Bettina Marie McCullough, and 10 grandchildren.
A private funeral service was held in Hawaii. A memorial service at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, is also planned.
Dick liked to tell a funny story on himself. “I once told [popular Hollywood personality] Johnny Grant, ‘I’m the best-known has-been in Hollywood.’ And Johnny says, ‘Yeah, Dick, but look where you has been!’ I didn’t get it at first, but then I realized he was really giving me a compliment.”
And the next time the name Richard O. Linke rolls by in the credits on an “Andy Griffith Show” rerun, viewers can know that the name stands for a man who worked hard behind the scenes and helped make the dream of Mayberry a reality.