Hee Haw

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Hee Haw
Hee Haw.jpg
GenreComedy
Music
Created byFrank Peppiatt
John Aylesworth
Presented byBuck Owens
Roy Clark
StarringArchie Campbell
Roy Acuff
Gordie Tapp
Grandpa Jones
Junior Samples
Lulu Roman
Minnie Pearl
Don Harron
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons25
Production
Location(s)Nashville, Tennessee, US
Running time60 minutes
Broadcast
Original channelCBS-TV; syndicated
Original runJune 15, 1969 (1969-06-15) – September 19, 1992 (1992-09-19)
Chronology
Related shows

Hee Haw Honeys

Hee Haw Silver
External links
Website
 
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For the EP by the Birthday Party, see Hee Haw (EP). For the soda, see generic citrus sodas#Heee Haw.
Hee Haw
Hee Haw.jpg
GenreComedy
Music
Created byFrank Peppiatt
John Aylesworth
Presented byBuck Owens
Roy Clark
StarringArchie Campbell
Roy Acuff
Gordie Tapp
Grandpa Jones
Junior Samples
Lulu Roman
Minnie Pearl
Don Harron
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons25
Production
Location(s)Nashville, Tennessee, US
Running time60 minutes
Broadcast
Original channelCBS-TV; syndicated
Original runJune 15, 1969 (1969-06-15) – September 19, 1992 (1992-09-19)
Chronology
Related shows

Hee Haw Honeys

Hee Haw Silver
External links
Website

Hee Haw is an American television variety show featuring country music and humor with fictional rural Kornfield Kounty as a backdrop. It aired on CBS-TV from 1969–1971 before a 20-year run in local syndication. The show was inspired by Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In,[1] the major difference being that Hee Haw was far less topical, and was centered on country music and rural Southern culture. Hosted by country artists Buck Owens and Roy Clark for most of the series' run, the show was equally well known for its voluptuous, scantily-clad women in stereotypical farmer's daughter outfits and country-style minidresses (a group that came to be known as the "Hee Haw Honeys"), and its cornpone humor.

Hee Haw's appeal, however, was not limited to a rural audience. It was successful in all of the major markets, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Other niche programs such as The Lawrence Welk Show (which targeted older audiences) and Soul Train (which targeted African-American audiences) also rose to prominence in syndication during the era. Like Laugh-In, the show minimized production costs by taping all of the recurring sketches for a season in batches, setting up for the Cornfield one day, the Joke Fence another, etc. At the height of its popularity, an entire year's worth of shows would be taped in two separate week-long sessions, then individual shows would be assembled from edited sections. Only musical performances were taped with a live audience; a laugh track was added to all other segments.

The series was taped for the CBS Television Network at its network affiliate WLAC-TV (now WTVF)[2] in downtown Nashville, and later at Opryland USA in East Nashville.[3] The show was produced by Yongestreet Productions through the mid-1980s; it was later produced by Gaylord Entertainment, which distributed the show in syndication. The show's name was coined by show business talent manager and producer Bernie Brillstein and derives from a common English onomatopoeia used to describe the braying sound that a donkey makes.[1]

Creation and syndication[edit]

Much of Hee Haw's origin was Canadian. The series' creators, comedy writers Frank Peppiatt and John Aylesworth, were from Canada. From 1969 until the late 1980s, Hee Haw was produced by Yongestreet Productions, named after Yonge Street, a major thoroughfare in Toronto. Gordie Tapp and Don Harron, both writer/performers on the show, were also Canadian.

Hee Haw started on CBS-TV as a summer 1969 replacement for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Though the show had respectable ratings (it sat at #16 for the 1970-71 season), it was dropped in July 1971 by CBS as part of the so-called "Rural Purge" (along with fellow country-themed shows The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry R.F.D. and Green Acres), owing to network executives' feeling that its viewers reflected a less appealing, aging[citation needed] demographic (e.g. rural, somewhat older, less affluent, less prone to buy)[citation needed].

Undaunted, the producers put together a syndication deal for the show, which continued in roughly the same format for 20 more years (though Owens departed in 1986). After Owens left, Clark was assisted each week by a country music celebrity co-host.

During the show's peak in popularity, Hee Haw often competed in syndication against The Lawrence Welk Show, a long-running ABC program which had also been canceled in 1971, also in an attempt to purge the networks of older demographic-leaning programs. Like Hee Haw, Lawrence Welk was picked up for syndication in the fall of 1971, and there were some markets where the same station aired both programs. (The success of Hee Haw and Lawrence Welk in syndication, and the network decisions that led to their respective cancellations, were the inspiration for a novelty song called "The Lawrence Welk-Hee Haw Counter-Revolution Polka," performed by Clark; the song became a top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in the fall of 1972.)

Mirroring the long downward trend in the popularity of variety shows in general that had taken place in the 1970s, ratings began to decline for Hee Haw by the mid-1980s, a trend that continued into the early 1990s. In the fall of 1991, in an attempt to win back viewers and attract a younger audience, the show's format and setting underwent a dramatic overhaul. The changes included a new title (The Hee Haw Show), more pop-oriented country music, and the barnyard-cornfield setting replaced by a city street and shopping mall set. The first of the new shows aired in January 1992.

Despite the attempt to keep the show fresh, the changes alienated many of its longtime viewers while failing to gain the hoped-for younger viewers, and the ratings continued their decline.

During the summer of 1992, a decision was made to end first-run production, and instead air highlights of the show's earlier years in a revamped program called Hee Haw Silver (as part of celebrating the show's 25th year).[notes 1] Under the new format, Clark hosted a mixture of classic clips and new footage.

The Hee Haw Silver episodes spotlighted many of the classic comedy skits and moments from the show, with a series of retrospective looks at performers who had since died, such as David "Stringbean" Akeman, Archie Campbell, Junior Samples, and Kenny Price. According to the show's producer, Sam Lovullo, the ratings showed improvement with these classic reruns; however, the series was finally canceled in 1993 at the conclusion of its 25th season. Hee Haw continued to pop up in reruns (see below for details) throughout the 1990s and later during the following decade, in a series of successful DVD releases from Time Life.

Reruns[edit]

After the show's syndication run ended, reruns aired on The Nashville Network from 1993 until 1996. Upon the cancellation of reruns in 1996 the program resurfaced, in reruns, the following year for a limited run on the same network. Its 21 years in TV syndication (1971–1992) was the record for the longest-running U.S. syndicated TV program, until Soul Train surpassed it in 1993; Hee Haw remains the fifth longest-running syndicated American TV program, though the longest-running of its genre.

During the 2006–07 season CMT aired a series of reruns and TV Land also recognized the series with an award presented by k.d. lang; in attendance were Roy Clark, Gunilla Hutton, Barbi Benton, the Hager twins, Linda Thompson, Misty Rowe and others. It was during this point, roughly between the years of 2004 and 2007, that Time Life began selling selected episodes of the show on DVD. Among the DVD content offered was the 1978 10th anniversary special that hadn't been seen since its original airing. CMT sporadically aired the series, usually in graveyard slots, and primarily held the rights in order to be able to air the musical performances as part of their music video library (such as during the "Pure Vintage" block on CMT Pure Country).

Reruns of Hee Haw began airing on RFD-TV in September 2008, where it currently remains, anchoring the network's Sunday night lineup, although beginning in January 2014 the show airs on Saturday afternoon and is rerun on Sunday night. In 2011 the network began re-airing the earliest episodes from 1969–70 on Thursday evenings. In the summer of 2011 a lot of the surviving cast and an ensemble of country artists taped a Country's Family Reunion special, entitled Salute to the Kornfield, which aired on RFD-TV in January 2012. The special is also part of Country's Family Reunion's DVD series. Concurrent with the special was the unveiling of a Hee Haw exhibit, titled Pickin' and Grinnin', at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.

Cast members[edit]

Two rural-style comedians, already well known in their native Canada, gained their first major U.S. exposure. Gordie Tapp and Don Harron (whose KORN Radio character, newscaster Charlie Farquharson, had been a fixture of Canadian television since 1952 and later appeared on The Red Green Show).

Other cast members over the years included, but were not limited to: Roy Acuff, Cathy Baker, Billy Jim Baker, Barbi Benton, Kelly Billingsley, Vicki Bird, Jennifer Bishop, Archie Campbell, Phil Campbell, Harry Cole (Weeping Willie), Mackenzie Colt, John Henry Faulk, Marianne Gordon (Rogers), Jim and Jon Hager, Victoria Hallman, Diana Goodman, Gunilla Hutton, Linda Johnson, Grandpa Jones, Zella Lehr (the "unicycle girl"), George Lindsey (reprising his "Goober" character from The Andy Griffith Show), Jimmy Little, Irlene Mandrell, Dawn McKinley, Patricia McKinnon, Sherry Miles, Rev. Grady Nutt, Minnie Pearl, Claude "Jackie" Phelps, Slim Pickens, Kenny Price, Anne Randall, Chase Randolph, Susan Raye, Jimmie Riddle, Jeannine Riley, Alice Ripley, Lulu Roman, Misty Rowe, Junior Samples, Ray Sanders, Terry Sanders, Gailard Sartain, Diana Scott, Gerald Smith (the "Georgia Quacker"), Jeff Smith, Donna Stokes, Dennis Stone, Roni Stoneman, Mary Taylor, Nancy Taylor, Linda Thompson, Lisa Todd, Pedro Tomas, Nancy Traylor, Buck Trent, Jackie Waddell, Pat Woodell and Jonathan Winters, among many others.

The Buckaroos (Buck Owens' band) initially served as the house band on the show and consisted of members Don Rich, Jim Shaw, Jerry Brightman, Jerry Wiggins, Rick Taylor, Doyle Singer (Doyle Curtsinger), Don Lee, Ronnie Jackson, Terry Christoffersen, Doyle Holly, and in later seasons Victoria Hallman, who replaced Don Rich on harmony vocals (Rich was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1974). In later seasons, harmonica player Charlie McCoy joined the cast and became the show's music director, forming the Hee Haw Band, which became the house band for the rest of the series' run. The Nashville Edition, a four-member (two male, two female) singing group, served as the background singers for most of the musical performances.

Some of the cast members made national headlines: Lulu Roman was twice charged with drug possession in 1971, David "Stringbean" Akeman and his wife were murdered in November 1973 during a robbery at their home; and as mentioned above, Buck Owens' lead guitarist and harmony singer Don Rich of the Buckaroos was killed in a motorcycle crash in 1974.

Some cast members, such as Charlie McCoy and Tennessee Ernie Ford, originally appeared on the show as guest stars.

After Buck Owens left the show, a different country music artist would accompany Roy Clark as a guest co-host each week until the final season (Hee Haw Silver), which Clark hosted alone.

Recurring sketches and segments[edit]

Some of the most popular sketches and segments on Hee Haw included:

"Where, oh where, are you tonight?
Why did you leave me here all alone?
I searched the world over, and I thought I'd found true love,
You met another, and PFFT! You was gone!"
The "PFFT" would be done as "blowing a raspberry", and occasionally, the duo would break up into laughter after the "PFFT", unable to finish the song; who got spat upon during the "PFFT" would change each show. Following Campbell's death, whole groups and even women would be part of the chorus, with regular George Lindsay often singing the verse. Occasionally, in the later years, Roni Stoneman (in her role of Ida Lee Nagger) would sometimes sing the verse.
"Gloom, despair and agony on me-e!
Deep dark depression, excessive misery-y!
If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all!
Gloom, despair and agony on me-e-e!"
The quartet began by singing the chorus together, followed by each quartet member reciting some humorous reason for his misery in spoken form, then (in the first several seasons) the quartet would reprise the chorus and end with all four sobbing in typical overstated manner.
Sometimes, in later seasons, a male guest star would participate in the sketch as the fourth member tearfully reciting the reason for his misery.
Also in later seasons, female cast members did their own version of the sketch, first just lip-synching the male vocals in the song, but later getting their own feminized version complete with female howls of mourning.
"Now, we're not ones to go 'round spreadin' rumors,
Why, really we're just not the gossipy kind,
No, you'll never hear one of us repeating gossip,
So you'd better be sure and listen close the first time!"
Two of the four girls then sang the verse. Misty Rowe, a long-time member of the "Gossip Girls", would enhance the comedy of the sketch by singing her part of the verse out of tune (as a young child would do). In later years, the guys, in drag, would sometimes replace the girls in the sketch, in retaliation for the girls singing "Gloom, Despair...". Sometimes, in later seasons, the four female cast members sang the song on the Cornfield set, with a male guest star standing in the center, between the four girls.
(For the first few seasons of each sketch, the "Gossip Girls" and "Gloom, Despair.." songs began with the chorus, then the verse, and ended with a repeat of the chorus; but in later seasons the repeat of the chorus was discontinued, with the songs ending after the verse.)
(In later seasons, "KORN News" and "The Weather Girl" merged into one sketch.)

Guest stars often participated in some of the sketches (mostly the "PFFT! You Was Gone" and "The Cornfield" sketches); however, this did not occur until later seasons.

Musical legacy[edit]

Hee Haw was a premiere showcase on commercial television during the 1970s and early 1980s for country, bluegrass, gospel, and other styles of American traditional music, featuring hundreds of elite musical performances that were paramount to the success, popularity and legacy of the series for a broad audience of Southern, rural and purely music fans alike.

Some of the most popular music-based segments on the show (other than guest stars' performances) included:

In addition to hosts Buck Owens and Roy Clark, who would perform at least one song each week, other cast members—such as Gunilla Hutton, Misty Rowe, Victoria Hallman, Grandpa Jones (sometimes with his wife Ramona), Kenny Price, Archie Campbell, Barbi Benton, The Nashville Edition, and Diana Goodman—would occasionally perform a song on the show; and the show would almost always open with a song performed by the entire cast.

Lovullo also has made the claim the show presented "what were, in reality, the first musical videos."[5] Lovullo said his videos were conceptualized by having the show's staff go to nearby rural areas and film animals and farmers, before editing the footage to fit the storyline of a particular song. "The video material was a very workable production item for the show," he wrote. "It provided picture stories for songs. However, some of our guests felt the videos took attention away from their live performances, which they hoped would promote record sales. If they had a hit song, they didn't want to play it under comic barnyard footage." The concept's mixed reaction eventually spelled an end to the "video" concept on Hee Haw.[5] However, several of co-host Owens' songs – including "Tall, Dark Stranger," "Big in Vegas" and "I Wouldn't Live in New York City (If They Gave Me the Whole Dang Town)" – aired on the series and have since aired on Great American Country and CMT as part of their classic country music programming blocks.

Guest appearances[edit]

Hee Haw featured at least two, and sometimes three or four, guest celebrities each week. While most of the guest stars were country music artists, a wide range of other famous luminaries were featured. Also, several clogging groups frequently performed on the show, and occasionally the show featured child singers who would perform top country songs of the day.

Sheb Wooley, one of the original cast members, wrote the show's theme song. After filming the initial 13 episodes, other professional demands caused him to leave the show, but he returned from time to time as a guest.

Loretta Lynn was the first guest star of Hee Haw and made more guest appearances than any other artist. She also co-hosted the show more than any other guest co-host and therefore appears on more of the DVD releases for retail sale than any other guest star.

From 1990–92, country superstar Garth Brooks appeared on the show four times. In 1992, producer Sam Lovullo tried unsuccessfully to contact Brooks because he wanted him for the final show. Brooks surprised Lovullo by showing up last minute, ready to don his overalls and perform for the final episode.[6]

Stage settings[edit]

A barn interior set was used as the main stage for most of the musical performances from the show's premiere until the debut of the "Hee Haw Honky Tonk" sketch in the early 1980s. Afterwards, the "Hee Haw Honky Tonk" set would serve as the main stage for the rest of the series' run. Buck Owens began using the barn interior set for his performances after it was replaced by the "Hee Haw Honky Tonk" set and was named "Buck's Place" (an obvious nod to one of Owens' hits, "Sam's Place"). Other settings for the musical performances throughout the series' run included a haystack (where the entire cast performed songs), the living room of a Victorian house, the front porch and lawn of the Samuel B. Sternwheeler home, a grist mill (where Roy Clark performed many of his songs in earlier seasons), and a railroad depot, where Buck Owens performed many of his songs in earlier seasons.

The Elvis connection[edit]

Elvis Presley was a fan of Hee Haw and wanted to appear as a guest on the program in the 1970s, but his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, would not allow him to do so. Two of the Hee Haw Honeys dated Presley: Most notably Linda Thompson in the early 1970s, whom Presley also had a long-lasting, steady relationship with after his divorce from Priscilla; and Diana Goodman shortly afterwards. Shortly after Presley's death, his father, Vernon Presley, made an appearance on the show and paid tribute to his late son, noting how much he enjoyed watching the show.

Episode closings[edit]

At the end of the show, hosts Clark and Owens, backed by the entire cast, sang the original closing song with the following lyrics:

"We loved the time we spent with you,
To share a song and a laugh or two,
May your pleasures be many, your troubles be few..."

And then (spoken):

Owens: "So long everybody!"
Clark: "We'll see you next week on..."
Entire cast: "HEE HAW!"
"So long, we sure had a good time! So long, gee, the company was fine! Singin' and a dancin', Laughin' and a prancin', Adios, farewell, goodbye, God bless, so long. HEE HAW!"

Hee Haw Honeys (spin-off series)[edit]

Hee Haw produced a short-lived spin-off series, Hee Haw Honeys (not to be confused with Hee Haw's female cast members), for the 1979 television season. The musical sitcom starred Kathie Lee Johnson (Gifford) along with Hee Haw regulars Misty Rowe, Gailard Sartain, Lulu Roman, and Kenny Price as a family who owned a truck stop restaurant (likely inspired by the "Lulu's Truck Stop" sketch on Hee Haw). Their restaurant included a bandstand, where guest country artists would perform a couple of their hits of the day, sometimes asking the cast to join them.[7] Cast members would also perform songs occasionally; and the Nashville Edition, Hee Haw's backup singing group, frequently appeared on the show, portraying regular patrons of the restaurant.

Legacy[edit]

Hee Haw continues to remain beloved and popular with its long-time fans and those who've discovered the program through DVD releases or its reruns on RFD-TV. In spite of the loving support of the series by its fans, the program has never been a favorite of television critics or reviewers.

On at least four episodes of the animated Fox series Family Guy, when the storyline hits a dead-end, a cutaway to Conway Twitty performing a song is inserted. The handoff is done in Hee Haw style, and often uses actual footage from the show.

Lulu Roman released a new album entitled At Last on January 15, 2013. The album features Lulu's versions of 12 classics and standards including guest appearances by Dolly Parton, T. Graham Brown, Linda Davis, and Georgette Jones (daughter of George Jones and Tammy Wynette).[8]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ The show debuted as a mid-season replacement in June 1969 and because of this its first season is considered to be those first few months on the summer schedule. Its 24th season is referred to the batch of shows that aired from January through May 1992 when it was re-titled The Hee Haw Show. The fall of 1992 marked the beginning of the program's 25th season on the air.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Brillstein, Bernie; David Rensin (1999). Where Did I Go Right?: You're No One In Hollywood Unless Someone Wants You Dead!. Little, Brown and Company. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-316-11885-9. Suddenly it hit me: How about a country Laugh-In? I turned to Laura and said, "What does a donkey say when he makes that fucking sound?" "Hee-haw," she said. "That's it!" 
  2. ^ newschannel5.com
  3. ^ heehaw.com
  4. ^ Grandpa Jones booed[Video Removed]
  5. ^ a b Lovullo, Sam, and Mark Eliot, "Life in the Kornfield: My 25 Years at Hee Haw," Boulevard Books, New York, 1996, p. 34. ISBN 1-57297-028-6
  6. ^ Martin, Jeff [1], This Land, January 2011, accessed July 6, 2011.
  7. ^ The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. Ballantine Books. 2003. ISBN 0-345-45542-8. 
  8. ^ Record Label (December 7, 2012). "Homesick Entertainment Projects". Homesick Entertainment. Retrieved December 7, 2012. 

External links[edit]