RODNEY DILLARD & THE DILLARD BAND, “I Wish Life Was Like Mayberry,” Rural Rhythm. 19 tracks.

On March 18, 1963, America got its first look at The Darling Family on the popular “Andy Griffith Show.”

The musical hillbillies only made six appearances on the show over four seasons — plus the 1986 reunion movie, “Return to Mayberry.”

But nearly 50 years later, America still remembers The Dillards more for their portrayal of the Darling Boys than for their ground-breaking bluegrass music.

In 2009, the International Bluegrass Music Association inducted The Dillards into its Hall of Fame at the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Ky.

The Dillards “were a driving force in modernizing and popularizing the sound of bluegrass in the 1960s and ’70s,” the IBMA says on its website, “blazing a trail on the 1960s West Coast music scene for progressive bluegrass bands.”

The band began as The Dillard Brothers in 1958, with Rodney Dillard on guitar and Douglas Dillard on banjo. Dean Webb later joined on mandolin and Mitch Jayne on bass.

In 1962, The Dillards hit the road for Los Angeles with $300 in their pockets, stopping to work in Oklahoma along the way.

Once in Los Angeles, the band was signed almost immediately by Elektra Records. Then, a DesiLu Studios representative saw an ad in Variety magazine about Elektra signing the Dillards. A few days later, they were called in to audition for the role of The Darlings on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

The IBMA says repeated airings of those six episodes over the past 47 years make The Dillards “the most often seen bluegrass artists on television, thanks to reruns.”

So, it’s hardly surprising that Rodney Dillard has gone back to Mayberry for an album that’s sure to be a favorite of the thousands of fans who still watch the reruns on television.

Newer songs include “The Darlin’ Boys,” an tribute to the characters the band played on the show; “There Goes The Neighborhood,” a humorous look at urban sprawl and rural life; “Wicker Rocking Chair,” a song about finding happiness in simpler things; “The Mayberry Hat,” a ballad about a hat that evokes memories of better times; and “The Andy Griffith Show Song,” a ballad that suggests that America would be better if it was more like Mayberry.

Older material includes songs the band sang on “The Andy Griffith Show”: “There Is A Time” (which was sung on three different episodes), “Dooley,” “Salty Dog Blues,” “Banjo In The Hollow” and “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms.”

There are also six one-minute “Mayberry Minutes,” which Rodney Dillard recorded for radio over a three-year period.

“Wet Shoes In The Sunset” is an interesting piece that’s somewhat out of place. It’s an orchestral version of some of The Darlings “missing tracks.”

“I Wish Life Was Like Mayberry” is a definite must for fans of “The Andy Griffith Show.” And it would make a good Christmas gift for fans of The Dillards as well.

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