Maggie Peterson, known to ‘Andy Griffith Show’ fans as Charlene Darling, has died

·3 min read

To paraphrase Charlene Darling, this’n makes us cry.

The family of Maggie Peterson Mancuso, who played Charlene Darling on “The Andy Griffith Show,” announced on Monday that the actress and singer died on Sunday, May 15.

The news was posted on the Andy Griffith Show Museum Facebook and on Mancuso’s Facebook page on Monday.

A family member wrote on Mancuso’s page that she “passed peacefully in her sleep with her family present.”

The post stated that Mancuso’s health had declined after the death of her husband, Gus, and that a private service would be held in the next few weeks.

“Maggie wanted this community to know how much you meant to her over the past three years,” the message to fans read. “Despite being in Las Vegas and away from her family, your love and devotion helped her to not feel alone. She made many mentions to us about how she couldn’t believe how generous you all were. You truly made a positive impact on her life and helped her during some very difficult times.”

Visits from the Darlings

Mancuso played the only daughter in the Darling family, a musical family of North Carolina “mountain people” who often showed up in nearby Mayberry, NC. The plots surrounding a Darling visit would often involve Charlene Darling’s love life.

She even once set her sights on Sheriff Andy Taylor (“Pa, can’t I just look at the pretty man?” she asked her father), played by Mount Airy native Andy Griffith. (Charlene, for the record, eventually married “Dud” Wash, to whom she had been betrothed since childhood.)

The show’s setting of Mayberry is said to have been based loosely on Mount Airy.

The Darlings on “The Andy Griffith Show” were really The Dillards, an already established bluegrass group from Missouri, plus actors Denver Pyle (Briscoe) and Maggie Peterson (Charlene), seated next to Andy Griffith (Andy Taylor).
The Darlings on “The Andy Griffith Show” were really The Dillards, an already established bluegrass group from Missouri, plus actors Denver Pyle (Briscoe) and Maggie Peterson (Charlene), seated next to Andy Griffith (Andy Taylor).

Darling visits also meant lots of music on an “Andy Griffith Show” episode, with Mancuso’s Charlene Darling often on vocals. Charlene’s brothers, played by members of the accomplished bluegrass group the Dillards, Doug and Rodney Dillard, Dean Webb and Mitch Jayne) played guitar and banjo and also sang. Father Briscoe, played by Denver Pyle, played the jug.

Among the most popular Darling family numbers voiced by Mancuso were “Salty Dog” and “There Is a Time,” the latter of which Charlene noted always made her Pa cry. (Conversely, nearly every other song the group sang, including “Never Hit Your Grandma With a Big Ol’ Stick,” made Charlene cry.) “Dooley,” another Darling classic, was sung by one of Charlene’s brothers.

Charlene Darling and her Darling family appeared in six episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show,” from 1963 to 1966.

According to IMDb, Mancuso (credited as Maggie Peterson) also appeared in episodes of “Green Acres,” “Gomer Pyle, USMC,” “Love, American Style” and “The Odd Couple.”

Interestingly, she appeared in an 1968 episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” as the character Doris. She also appeared in the 1969 film “The Love God?” with Don Knotts, who played Deputy Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

In recent years, Mancuso was a frequent guest at the annual Mayberry Days Festival in Mount Airy.

Another beloved member of “The Andy Griffith Show” cast, Betty Lynn, who played Barney Fife’s girlfriend Thelma Lou, passed away in October 2021.

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