From Little Ricky to Follower of Jesus

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Ray and I had such fun during the 2024 Mayberry ♥ I Love Lucy Days on April 11-13 in Historic Granville, a tiny town on the Cumberland River 13 miles down the road from our adopted town of Gainesboro. I have several stories to tell you, but I’d like to start with Little Ricky from the I Love Lucy television show.

First, I need to describe Granville. This tiny town has a population of 400 plus. The town was very sleepy when Ray and I were looking at homes in Jackson County in the early 2000s. Though I found a house we loved there, we decided to move to a different part of Jackson County, near the county seat of Gainesboro.

The heart of Granville is the Sutton General Store, built in the 1880s. The store was empty when a Mr. and Mrs. Sutton (no relation to the previous owners) purchased it several years ago and spent $250,000 restoring it. When they realized that their health would prevent their involvement in the store, they gave it to Granville’s museum. The folks operating the museum quickly realized that they needed cash to keep the lights and water on. Around 2010 local leaders decided to start putting on plays based on The Andy Griffith Show. In time this became the best source of revenue for Historic Granville. Eventually the town began calling itself Tennessee’s Mayberry Town, which is appropriate because the pace is very similar to fictional Mayberry.

Granville continues to be a sleepy little town most days, but in addition to its multiple plays each year, the town hosts many festivals and has several museums. One museum is devoted to the Andy Griffith and I Love Lucy television shows. In case you are too young to know about these two shows, they were two of the most-loved classics of what is sometimes called the Golden Age of Television.

Granville hosts Andy Griffith plays and other types of festivals throughout the year. A few years ago, they added a festival called Mayberry ♥ I Love Lucy Days. We attend several of Granville’s festivals, but last year was our first year to attend this one.

This year was even bigger and better than last year. Entertaining at the festival were about 20 tribute artists who portray characters from The Andy Griffith Show as well as married couple Carrie and Jeff Ketterman who portray Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. Speaking at the festival were two family members of cast members of The Andy Griffith Show: Andy Griffith’s daughter Dixie and Don Knott’s daughter Karen. Also speaking at the festival were Dennis Rush, who played Howie Pruitt on The Andy Griffith Show, and Keith Thibodeaux, who played Johnny Paul Jason on Andy Griffith and also played Little Ricky on I Love Lucy.

On Saturday evening Ray and I attended a panel discussion with Dennis Rush, Keith Thibodeaux, and Carrie and Jeff Ketterman. Keith Thibodeaux shared his life story with us.

Keith Thibodeaux was already a drummer when he joined the I Love Lucy cast at five years old, portraying their son Little Ricky. He later joined the cast of The Andy Griffith Show as Opie’s friend, Johnny Paul Jason.

Keith’s personal life later fell apart after his family returned to their home state of Louisiana and his parents divorced. Keith became addicted to drugs, using both cocaine and LSD. His mental health deteriorated, and he became suicidal.

One day he lay on his waterbed contemplating ending his life the next day. He cried out to God: “God, if you are there, help me out of this mess.” Two weeks later, Keith’s mother called and invited him to a Christian meeting. Keith decided to devote himself totally to following Jesus.

You will seek Me and find Me
when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

At the time, Keith Thibodeaux was playing with a Mississippi rock band called David and the Giants. He taught the members of his band about Jesus, and they began touring as a Christian band. After Ray took this picture of me with Keith, I met his wife of 47 years.

Keith Thibodeaux and me at Mayberry ♥ I Love Lucy Days, 2024

Satan works hard to capture people, but God is always waiting to redeem.

Submit therefore to God.
Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
James 4:7-8a


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