Nabors was known for his portrayal of Gomer Pyle, although he became a popular guest on variety shows which showcased his rich baritone singing voice in the 1960s and 1970s, including two specials of his own in 1969 and 1974. He subsequently recorded numerous albums and singles, most of them containing romantic ballads.
Nabors was also known for singing "Back Home Again in Indiana" prior to the start of the Indianapolis 500, held annually over the Memorial Day weekend. He sang the unofficial Indiana anthem almost every year from 1972 to 2014, except for occasional absences due to illness or scheduling conflicts.
Nabors was born in Sylacauga, Alabama on June 12, 1930 to Fred Nabors, a police officer, and Mavis Pearl (Newman). He had two older sisters, Freddie and Annie Ruth. He sang for his high school and church. Later, he attended the University of Alabama, where he began acting in skits. While at Alabama, he became a member of Delta Tau Delta International Fraternity. After graduating, he moved to New York City, where he worked as a typist for the United Nations; after a year, he moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he got his first job in the television industry as a film cutter.
Because of his asthma, Nabors moved to Los Angeles and worked as a film cutter for NBC. He also worked at a Santa Monica tavern, The Horn, singing and acting in cabaret theater. His act featured him as a character similar to the later Gomer Pyle. He sang in a baritone and sometimes spoke and sang in his higher-pitched comedic voice. At the club, comedian Bill Dana saw Nabors' act and invited him to appear on The Steve Allen Show. Nabors signed on to the show, but it was soon canceled.