What do Jim Clark and ''The Andy Griffith Show'' have in common? They were both born in 1960 and they both hold a soft spot in the hearts of fans nationwide.
For Clark, the story begins in 1979 at Vanderbilt University where shared a love of the show with three Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers. There was one television set in the frat house, and the Griffith show aired against "M*A*S*H."
"In order to get dibs on the TV set," Clark says, "one of us had to be there to claim it for 'The Andy Griffith Show.' And we said, 'While we're doing this, we might as well call ourselves something.' So we called ourselves 'The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club' [TAGSRWC]."
Today, the club has 20,000 members in 500 chapters, from each state and 12 foreign countries. The first chapter, headed by Clark in Nashville, is the Andy Chapter. The second chapter, headed by Clark's mother in Greensboro, N.C., is the Barney Chapter.
It wasn't long before character names ran out. So people got creative, honoring places and lines from the show. There's the "Here's Wilbur, Barely Cold in the Ground" chapter in Middleport, Ohio; the "He's Ugly but he Ain't Stupid" chapter in Tarrant, Ala.; and the "More Power To Ya" chapter headed by Jack Densmore of Denton, Md.
Last Saturday, the national fan club, in association with Central Piedmont Community College and WRFX-FM in Charlotte, N.C., hosted some 1,200 Mayberry fans for what Neal Brower, who teaches a course on the Griffith show at the college, called the largest public gathering of "The Andy Griffith Show" cast in history.
At a news conference before the event, Jack Dodson, who played county clerk Howard Sprague, told reporters: "We went to work and made a little film every week. We enjoyed it. We knew it was good and we worked hard. We figured there might be some life to it, but we didn't realize we'd be sitting here 30 years later, still speaking to each other."
Clark, who with Ken Beck wrote "The Andy Griffith Show Book," is often asked to explain the draw to Mayberry.
"They did such a great job that in our minds we really believe
there is a Mayberry," he says. "We know realistically there is no Mayberry, but we want to believe it, and because of that, it exists for us in our imagination."
To join TAGSRWC, send your name, address and $5 per household membership to: TAGSRWC, 27 Music Square East, Suite 146, Nashville, Tenn. 37203-4349. Membership includes "The Bullet," a newsletter scheduled for three issues in 1991.