Maggie Peterson, Actress on ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ Dies at 81

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Maggie Peterson, the singer and actress known for her recurring role on The Andy Griffith Show as Charlene Darling, the only daughter of a bluegrass-loving mountain family, has died. She was 81.

Peterson died Sunday in Colorado, her family announced. They said her health “took a turn for the worse” in the wake of the December death of her husband, Las Vegas-based jazz musician Gus Mancuso. They were married for more than 40 years.

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Peterson first appeared on CBS’ The Andy Griffith Show as Charlene in 1963 near the end of the comedy’s third season when she leads her family in a bouncy rendition of “Salty Dog.”

She showed up on four other episodes of the show through 1966 — once, she shared a wedding dress with Don Knotts, another time she sang “There Is a Time” — then played another character on the 1968 episode “A Girl for Goober” in the final season.

Peterson had auditioned to play a love interest for Griffith’s Sheriff Andy Taylor, but the role went to Elinor Donahue. Her Charlene had a big crush on Andy, and after she married Dud Wash (Hoke Howell), she wound up naming her daughter, Andelina, after him.

Margaret Ann Peterson was born on Jan. 10, 1941, in Greeley, Colorado. Her father was a doctor and her mother a homemaker.

With her brother and two of his friends, they formed a musical act called the Ja-Da Quartet. They were spotted by Griffith’s manager and invited to New York, and they eventually made it on variety programs hosted by Perry Como and Pat Boone and recorded an album, It’s the Most Happy Sound.

In 1964, Peterson joined NBC’s The Bill Dana Show — which like The Andy Griffith Show was a spinoff from Danny Thomas’ Make Room for Daddy — as Susie the coffee shop waitress for that sitcom’s second and final season. And in 1969, she appeared in the Griffith-starring feature Angel in My Pocket and in The Love God?, starring Knotts.

She returned as Charlene in the 1986 telefilm Return to Mayberry and also turned up on shows including Green Acres, Gomer Pyle: USMC, The Odd Couple and Love, American Style.

After retiring from acting in the late 1980s, she worked for the Nevada Film Commission and served as a location manager on such films as Casino (1995), Mars Attacks! (1996) and Pay It Forward (2000).

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