Maggie Peterson, ‘Andy Griffith Show’ Regular and Singer, Dies at 81

She played recurring character Charlene Darling on the classic ’60s sitcom

Maggie Peterson
Maggie Peterson (Getty/Facebook)

Maggie Peterson Mancuso, best known for her recurring role as bluegrass singer Charlene Darling on “The Andy Griffith Show,” died Sunday in Colorado, her family announced on Facebook on Monday.

“Dear Fans, Friends, and Family, It is with great sorrow that we report that our dear Aunt Maggie died yesterday afternoon (Sunday, May 15). She passed peacefully in her sleep with her family present. Maggie’s health took a turn for the worse after the death of her husband Gus and we are relieved that we were able to move her home to be close to family for her last days,” the statement read in part. It was accompanied by an undated photo of the actress holding a copy of the 1985 book about the classic sitcom, “Mayberry Memories.”

She and jazz musician Gus Mancuso, who died in December, were married for more than 40 years.

Her first of five appearances as Charlene, the only daughter of a music-loving country family, was in 1963, in which she sang “Salty Dog.” Charlene had a crush on Sheriff Andy, but ended up marrying Dud Wash (Hoke Howell). Peterson also played a character called Doris in the 1968 episode “A Girl for Goober.”

She also guested a different character on “The Andy Griffith Show” spinoff “Gomer Pyle: USMC,” and reprised her role of Charlene in the 1986 TV movie “Return to Mayberry.”

Peterson was born on Jan. 10, 1941, in Greeley, Colorado and formed the Ja-Da Quartet with her brother and two of his friends. The group went on to appear on variety shows hosted by Perry Como and Pat Boone and in 1959 recorded the album “It’s the Most Happy Sound.”

She also appeared in the second and final season of the “The Bill Dana Show” as coffee shop waitress Susie. In 1969, she reteamed with Griffith for the film “Angel in My Pocket,” and with Don Knotts in “The Love God?”

After her retirement from acting in the late 1980s, she worked for the Nevada Film Commission and served as a location manager on films including “Casino,” “Mars Attacks!” and “Pay It Forward,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Her family shared they will be planning a private service for Peterson “in the next few weeks.”