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Who Plays Ernest T. Bass On The Andy Griffith Show & What Other Roles Did He Have?

"It's me, it's me, it's Ernest T." If this phrase means anything to you, then you probably grew up with one of the most rewatchable sitcoms of all time, "The Andy Griffith Show." And if you're a fan of the series, then you're apt to be pretty fond of Howard Morris' most iconic creation, Ernest T. Bass. An uncouth criminal and musical mountain man, Ernest is just as likely to hock a rock through a plate glass window as he is to court a pretty girl. He shows up five times on the show and yet stands out among the rogues' gallery of criminals that Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) and Barney Fife (Don Knotts) have to deal with throughout the series. Of course, since Ernest's appearance usually involved kidnapping and major property damage, that means he's anything but a tranquilizing presence on the show. Ernest is such a popular character with viewers that he plays a major role in the 1986 reunion movie "Return to Mayberry," where he is the origin point of a monster-related hoax that has the whole town on edge.

Aside from stepping into Ernest's signature vest, Howard Morris played several other roles on "The Andy Griffith Show." He provided the voice of a radio announcer in "The Family Visit" during Season 5 and voiced Leonard Blush in "Barney's Bloodhound" during the same season. He also appears one more time in Season 5 as someone other than Ernest — George, a TV repairman, in "Andy and Helen Have Their Day." And that's not the only bit of influence Morris had over the legendary sitcom.

Howard Morris also worked behind the scenes in Mayberry

Howard Morris' influence on "The Andy Griffith Show" didn't stop with his iconic role as Ernest. He launched his directorial career on the show in 1964, ultimately helming eight episodes of the program. Among their number are iconic outings like "Aunt Bee's Romance" and "The Darling Baby." Morris would go on to direct four episodes of the series' spin-off, "Gomer Pyle USMC," and also put in work on iconic sitcoms from the 1960s through the 1980s on series like "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "Get Smart," "Bewitched," "Hogan's Heroes" and "Laverne and Shirley." 

But no matter how many other roles Morris took on, Ernest remained an indelible part of his public persona. He told the Television Academy for their Foundation Interviews series in 2004 that in spite of being born a New Yorker, he managed to find his inner southerner fairly quickly. "He was a nasty little SOB from the hills who would come down from the hills, and when he didn't get what he wanted, he'd throw rocks," he said of Ernest. Even at the age of 84, just a year before he died, he could pull off some rapid Ernest-style patter, which just goes to show that there was always room for the holler in Morris' heart.