Animation is built on plagiarism! If it weren’t for someone plagiarizing ‘The Honeymooners,’ we wouldn’t have ‘The Flintstones!’ If someone hadn’t ripped off ‘Sergeant Bilko,’ there’d be no ‘Top Cat!’ Huckleberry Hound, Chief Wiggum, Yogi Bear? Andy Griffith, Edward G. Robinson, Art Carney.
Griffith’s death at the age of 86 has provided a good opportunity to lay to rest that theory once and for all.
Tim Lawson and Alisa Persons, in their book The Magic Behind the Voices (2004), interviewed Daws himself on the subject:
Though Hanna-Barbera claims that Huckleberry Hound was based on Andy Griffith, the voice was actually based on William Harwood, a North Carolina man who was a veterinarian and next-door neighbor of Butler’s future wife, Myrtis.Now, Daws Butler wouldn’t lie to you, would he?
"Myrtis was from Albemarle, North Carolina. When I was in the navy, I’d hitchhike home on the weekend and this fella would be sitting on the front porch next door. He'd see me come panting just to see Myrtis, and he'd say (in a drawl), ‘Hi, Daws! Come on up and sit down. We’ll talk a bit.’ I’d say, ‘Well, maybe a half an hour or an hour.’ Anyway, he kind of stuck in my head. I was in the navy then, but I put him in a little separate box. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Then when Huckleberry Hound came along, there he was!”
Just in case there are any doubts...
Daws borrowed Huck’s voice all, right. He borrowed it from himself. Daws used a lower-key version of his North Carolina drawl while employed at the MGM studio for the director that wasn’t named Hanna or Barbera—Tex Avery. He put it in a wolf character for the first time in “Three Little Pups,” released December 26, 1953. Avery was already gone from the studio; Mike Barrier reveals in his book “Hollywood Cartoons” that Avery’s unit was disbanded on March 1, 1953. Daws, obviously, would have recorded the soundtrack before that; the film is even copyright 1952. What was Griffith doing then? Not much that anyone would have known about. He shot to national fame only after the release of his first comedy record, and that wasn’t until after December 9, 1953 when Capitol bought the rights to it for $5,000.
So, yes, Hanna-Barbera reworked celebrity voices in the early days. And, yes, Huckleberry Hound’s voice has the same accent and is in the same range as Andy Griffith’s. But, no, one isn’t based on the other. Daws Butler came up with it on his own, with the help of a real-life “Pet Vet.”