By Katie Maloney
How did Opie from
The Andy Griffith Show get his name? Here are two theories on which real-life
people Opie was named after.
Opie Taylor, played
by Ron Howard, on The Andy Griffith Show was America’s favorite redheaded child
actor. Fans of the show all wished they could live in the town of Mayberry and
befriend Opie and his father Sheriff Andy Taylor.
show was just that – a fictional show. Nevertheless, the town and some of its
characters may have been based on real-life places and people, including Opie.
Certainly, “Opie” is a unique name. And although you probably haven’t met a
whole lot of Opies, The Andy Griffith Show character isn’t the only one to ever
exist. In fact, there are two men, also named Opie, that fans believe Ron
Howard‘s character may have been named after.
First, there’s Opal
“Opie” Taft Cates. Cates was a famous bandleader and actor who played the
clarinet for a swing band in Arkansas. Cates starred on the radio program Meet
Me at Parky’s which was set in a restaurant and aired from 1945–48. Sheldon
Leonard, who produced The Andy Griffith Show, was also an actor on the show
with Cates. Some believe Leonard suggested Opie for Ron Howard’s character
after befriending Cates.
However, there’s a
second theory as to how Opie got his name. During an interview, Opie Shelton, a
childhood friend of Andy Griffith, claimed that Opie was named after him. Maybe
the inspiration behind the name was a combination of both?
Opie wasn’t known
for his aggressive nature. In fact, even when his father thought Opie was naive
or up to no good, he always quickly discovered that Opie was both generous and
During one episode,
Opie accidentally killed a mother bird with his slingshot. Andy sat Opie down
and talked to him about the mother bird’s three baby birdies that were left
without a mother. Andy even opened the window so that Opie could hear the
orphaned birds’ little chirps. Feeling terrible, Opie decided to nurse the baby
birds until they were old and healthy enough to fly out on their own. What’s
sweeter than that?
It’s hard to
believe that such a sweet kid could have some Viking blood in him. Yes, we know
Opie a fictional character, so technically that’s not possible. Nevertheless,
the name “Opie” actually comes from the Viking Ages. A reporter once traced the
etymology of the name Opie. Turns out that “Opie” can be traced back to the old
Viking name “Asbjorn” which meant “God bear.” The nickname of Asbjorn evolved
from “Asbie” to “Obby” to “Oppy” to “Opie.” Opie could mean “Son of Asbjorn.”