I’m sorry to have to report that Maggie Peterson, most famous for playing Charlene Darling on the iconic “Andy Griffith Show,” is in need of financial help due to medical issues. Her longtime husband, musician Gus Mancuso, is suffering from Alzheimer’s and she was his caregiver before she suddenly began having serious health issues of her own. They had to give up their apartment and need full time care that insurance won’t cover. Their family has set up a GoFundMe page. You can read details and see a video by Maggie if you click on “older updates.” And please share this link:
Beloved as the only female amidst the “Deliverance”-like Darling clan (her bros played by bluegrass greats The Dillards), she also played a completely different role in an episode of the final season of the show and a third on an episode of “Mayberry RFD.” The same person popping up as different characters was a strange quirk in Mayberry, perhaps due to there not being enough people in small towns to go around.
Maggie would sometimes sing on the show with her sullen, silent siblings, on such memorable tunes as “Salty Dog” and “There Is A Time.” Here’s a delightful YouTube video of a reunion at which they performed the latter: https://youtu.be/8F8VvG99CH4
She also did commercials; had a regular role on “The Bill Dana Show;” one-shot roles on “The Odd Couple,” “Love American Style” and other TV shows of the era; and parts in the Don Knotts movie “The Love God,” Andy’s film “Angel In My Pocket,” and, of course, the TV movie “Return to Mayberry.” She was sometimes billed as Maggie Mancuso and later worked as a location scout.
(Side note: If you’re a Griffith Show fan, try to catch “Angel In My Pocket” if it comes on TV. It’s very Mayberry-like – it even has Jack “Howard Sprague” Dodson – but for some reason, it was hard to find for years. It finally came out on an import DVD last year, but it looks as if the mastering was done by Ernest T. Bass.)
Maggie was best known as an actress, but actually devoted more time to singing. She started out in a band with her brother Jim and two friends called Margaret Ann and the Ja-Da Quartet. They were noticed at a record convention by Andy Griffith’s manager, who encouraged them to come to New York. That led to some TV variety show shots, a few singles and a 1959 Warner LP called “It’s the Most Happy Sound.” It’s filled with Shakey’s Pizza Parlor singalongs such as “Swanee River,” “Mississippi Mud” and “My Cutey’s Due at Two to Two Today.”
While touring the Vegas-Tahoe-Reno lounge circuit with a musical act called Margaret Ann and the Ernie Mariani Trio, she was spotted by the Griffith show’s producer and director and asked to play Charlene, and the rest is TV Land history. She’s always been very grateful to “Griffith” fans for remembering her, and everyone who’s met her describes her as the sweetheart you’ve always imagined her to be.
If you have fond memories of Maggie with the Darlings (and who doesn’t?), I hope you’ll kick in a few bucks to help her and her family. To answer the obvious question: no, she gets no royalties from the show and hasn’t since the 1960s. Considering it plays constantly and is more popular than ever, someone must be making a fortune off of it. It would be nice if whoever that was would crack open their money vault and help Maggie, to pay her back for her invaluable part in creating a show that’s still universally beloved nearly 60 years later.