Here’s a little Colorado entertainment trivia: What makes four songs? The Andy Griffith ShowCharlene Darling’s claim to “make her cry”? It was a running gag about the handful of appearances made by Colorado-born actress Maggie Peterson, playing the sweet and flirtatious Darling, that some pretty goofy songs struck a chord with her plucky heartstrings: “Slimy River Bottom,” “Boil That Cabbage Down.” , “Keep your money in your shoes and it won’t get wet” and the classic “Never hit your grandmother with a big stick.”
Darling family fans and The Andy Griffith Show are the ones who might be shedding a tear right now: Maggie Peterson passed away on May 16. She was 81 years old.
Peterson was arguably best known for that small but recurring role on the much-loved 1960s series set in Mayberry: She appeared in several episodes alongside actor Denver Pyle, who played her father, Briscoe Darling, and the gang of real life bluegrass, the Dillards. portraying her siblings in non-speaking roles. Peterson and Pyle did most of the talking, along with Charlene Darling’s boyfriend and eventual husband, Dud Wash, who was first played by Hoke Howell, and later replaced by none other than Bob “Gilligan” Denver. The five episodes of Darling Family are some of the most memorable of The Andy Griffith Show canon, and for a show so universally loved, that’s saying something.
Born in Greeley in 1941, Peterson began her career singing with relatives in a local group called the Ja-Da Quartet, named after an old song from the 1920s. She came from a family of musicians; her father was a doctor but had worked his way through medical school playing the banjo. Peterson and her brothers played all over Colorado, including at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. “We were a cool little group,” Peterson said in a 2020 interview with the fan podcast. Two chairs without waiting.
She was discovered by Griffith’s agent, Dick Linke, when he was performing with the Ja-Das at a record convention, and he invited the group to search for him in New York. Once all the members graduated from high school, they did just that: buy an old Town Car, load it up, and drive to New York City. Peterson had never been east of Omaha. His first big performance was in The Perry Como Showabout a week after arrival.
Peterson’s affiliation with Linke led her to take on the role of Charlene Darling. “It was the ’60s, and the go-go girls were in,” Peterson said in the podcast interview. “That’s what they were thinking, kind of a Daisy Mae character. But that wasn’t Dick Linke’s idea.” The producers ended up choosing someone with a little more homey beauty and a lot of personality. Enter Peterson as the inimitable Charlene Darling.
The Andy Griffith Show It wasn’t her only acting job, but she did appear in many movies and TV shows with her co-stars, including appearances on Gomer Pyle’s USMC Y Mayberry RFD. She also appeared alongside Andy Griffith in the film. angel in my pocketand with Don Knotts in the god of love. After a guest run on sitcoms in the 1970s, she married jazz musician Gus Mancuso and retired from acting. She transitioned to location work in Las Vegas, working with the Nevada Film Commission on such films as Mars attacks! Y casino.
In recent years, Peterson relied on a GoFundMe page organized by his niece Amy Roye and nephew Ben Eaton. “Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife could solve all the problems in a single thirty-minute episode,” Peterson writes on the GoFundMe page. “But real life is not so easy to fix.” Her health problems forced her to ask her fans for help with her rehabilitation after a series of injuries due to falls and health issues, and her fans responded to the tune of over $47K.
Some might wonder how a relatively successful artist could need such financial help, and Peterson addressed that too. “Residuals, you ask?” she wrote. “The Andy Griffith Show it ended in the late sixties before waste became what it is now. There were some nominals at the beginning, but I have not received a residual for The Andy Griffith Show in fifty years.”
And so, GoFundMe became necessary for Peterson’s financial survival in his later years. That GoFundMe page is no longer accepting donations, but it is still active as the family uses it to communicate with fans after his passing. “His love for her and devotion to her helped her not feel alone,” the family wrote. “She mentioned to us many times that she couldn’t believe how generous all of you were. You really had a positive impact on her life and helped her through some very difficult times.”
The more than 700 donations on the GoFundMe page also allowed Peterson’s family to fly her to Colorado to live out her final days, so she could spend time surrounded by relatives in her home state.
“We all have a Mayberry in our past,” Peterson told the TCNW podcast. “And mine was Greeley. Everybody knew everybody. Everybody was friendly. You didn’t have to lock the doors at night. I loved growing up there.”