Jim Nabors, singer, actor and comedian, prepares to say goodbye to an important part of his life in the near future. His days at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are drawing to a close as he prepares his final performance of Back Home Again in Indiana. The yearly tradition of Nabors singing the famed ballad on Memorial Day will put an end to an era of institution on race day.
The almost 84 year old is ready to say goodbye to his long standing gig with mixed emotions. Singing the ballad since 1987, Nabors has been a welcome mainstay in the opening ceremonies at the Indy 500. Usually accompanied by the Purdue All-American Marching Band, Nabors has sort of adopted Indiana as another home.
Born and raised in Alabama, Nabors has always been a race car fan. His home town of Sylacauga is only 20 miles away from Talladega. He was honored a few years ago with US Highway 280 being named the Jim Nabors Highway. Nabors seems to make friends where ever he goes, which account for his great success and recognition.
A humble guy of many talents, Nabors was discovered while he was working in Santa Monica at a bar in the 60’s. He had embarked on a stand-up comedy routine and had developed a character named Gomer Pyle. Andy Griffith happened upon his act and invited Nabors to guest star on his show. The rest is history, as they say, as Nabors quickly found himself in the midst of becoming a star and a household name.
Nabors’ stint as gas station attendant and cousin of Goober on The Andy Griffith Show soon led to his own show, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. Filmed during the height of the Viet Nam War, the show did not address war issues but focused rather on the everyday comedy of relationships and duties of an enlisted soldier. It was a welcome relief from the reality of the world, at the time, easily bringing Nabors into the limelight.
It was during this period that Nabors’ rich baritone voice was brought surprisingly to light. After five successful seasons of Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., Nabors was ready for new and different ventures. Singing all his life, he went on to record numerous albums and guest starred on popular shows such as Sonny and Cher and The Carol Burnett Show. His forte was love ballads, country and gospel music. Nabors even had his own TV show, The Jim Nabors Hour, for a few years.
Traveling the country and the world with his music became both enlightening and frightening at times. While in India in 1994, Nabors contracted Hepatitis B from a shaving mishap. It became quite serious and he required a liver transplant. Surviving the odds, he went on to headline in Vegas, had roles in such movies as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Cannonball II and along the way, he found true love.
Living his dream of singing and acting, Nabors fell in love with Hawaii and a certain firefighter named Stan Cadwallader. The couple has been together since 1975 and were married in Seattle in 2013. All the while, Nabors has continued to sing at the Indy 500 each year. Previous to him, various artists were featured to sing Back Home Again in Indiana. Nabors started a new tradition with his rendition of the song and has been there every year, except for two he missed due to health issues. The star suffers from asthma and required heart valve replacement surgery in 2012.
Time has moved on for Nabors, as he now prefers to stay home in Hawaii and limit his travels. He has blessed us all with entertainment for close to six decades, as he fondly prepares to say goodbye to the race and relax in the laurels of his accomplishments. He is worth close to $15 million from his endeavors over the years and seems to be ready to call it a day. His finale at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be met with cheers and tears and he offers his trademark wave and smile. At ease, Gomer Pyle, we salute you and thank you for years of many laughs and beautiful music.
By: Roanne FitzGibbon