Hee Haw has been a weekly event in American households for nearly thirty years. The country-themed television show – which was a part variety show, part sketch comedy show, and part musical performance show – first aired on the CBS Television Network on June 15, 1969, and was canceled in 1971.
Yet, it wasn’t the end. It remained in production until the 1990s – becoming a show that will never go away. So, to celebrate such an iconic show, let’s take a look back at some of the best moments of Hee Haw.
The Birth of Hee Haw
Created by two Canadians in Beverly Hills – Frank Peppiatt and John Aylesworth– the first Hee Haw show aired one summer in 1969 to serve as a replacement series for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
Peppiatt and Aylesworth had extensive experience in writing for variety shows. However, after Hee Haw’s first broadcast – which featured guest stars Loretta Lynn and Charley Pride – it was poked fun at by national TV critics. Los Angeles Times even described it as “the most irrelevant, stupid, and ghastly program in recent history,” while The Houston Chronicle critic dubbed it as “Possibly the worst show I’ve ever seen.” Other reviews were not as encouraging as well.
As luck would have it, people were starting to tune in to the show to see how bad it was, only to find themselves falling in love with it. Hee Haw started becoming a hit by its fifth episode, and CBS picked it up for another season.
When it came back on December 29, 1969, it stayed on the air for the next 24 years. Just not at CBS.
The Show Thrived In Syndication
Though Hee Haw managed to maintain its solid overall ratings, CBS decided to drop the show in 1971 as part of the so-called “Rural Purge” which immediately canceled all the network’s country-themed shows, even those with still-decent ratings.
Undeterred, nonetheless, Hee Haw’s producers struck a syndication deal, the cast members were informed the show would keep going, and eventually, they even found a bigger audience. Hee Haw was carried weekly on 205 stations and became the No. 1 TV show taken nationally on a non-network basis.
It turned out the switch from network to syndication was the best thing that could have happened to the show – from such humble beginnings emerged a series that endured long enough to sink into the lives of several generations.
Unfortunately, the show’s rating began to decline by 1991. So producers made drastic changes, determined to improve those ratings – only to end up with longtime viewers hating the changes and ditching the show. The new Hee Haw also failed to gain new viewers. Hee Haw’s final episode aired on May 30, 1992 – with a total of 655 episodes.
Meet The Cast
Country music stars Roy Clark and Buck Owens hosted Hee Haw – their status made it easier to bring together some of the biggest names in country music. Most of the time, Clark would be in charge of the comedy segments while Owens carried the musical parts.
In 1972, Aylesworth and Peppiatt recalled Hee Haw’s origins and how little knowledge they had with country humor. So the two decided to ask for some help from their fellow Canadian, Gordie Tapp, who eventually became one of the cast members. It was also Trapp who suggested to hire experienced country comedian Archie Campbell.
Other cast members included Grandpa Jones, Roy Acuff, Buck Owens, and Roy Clark – who delivered classic country and more musical highlights. Minnie Pearl and Lisa Todd also joined the team in 1970. Overall, Kornfield Kounty gained over 40 other residents during “Hee Haw’s” run.
Guest performers were also diverse that every major country star you can imagine has stepped foot on the show – including Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Reba McEntire, and Garth Brooks. A wide range of other famous personalities were featured in the show, too – from actors and actresses to sports stars to politicians. The exposure Hee Haw gave to artists was priceless.
These Hee Haw Moments Will Have You Clinging To The Past
Below are some of the best country performances as these legends embodied the golden age of the country.
1. Roy Clark Killing “Folsom Prison Blues”
Roy Clark failing to play the song “Folsom Prison Blues” correctly is one of the most unforgettable gags they repeatedly do in the show. For instance, whenever Clark began playing the opening guitar licks and sang the word “Well,” he would take a pause before he would hesitantly sing it over and over again. This never failed to bring the audience into laughter.
And in 1973, Johnny Cash finally joined Clark for a memorable performance of “Folsom Prison Blues.” But, of course, Clark’s antics all through the performance – like improvising lines in silly voices – had Cash laughing the whole time.
2. Grandpa Jones Having A Hard Time Remembering Who Garth Brooks Is
In 1990, Garth Brooks – who was a brand-new country artist then – appeared on Hee Haw. And it’s easy to see that Brooks is headed to being the country star he is today and become among Hee Haw’s most cherished guests.
However, during the “Comedy in the Cornfield” segment, Grandpa Jones totally forgot Brooks’ name and was having a hard time remembering it. He would look at Brooks and would end up with a blank face – so he decided to call the singer “Clint.” Brooks was absolutely laughing from the start and was hardly making it through a single joke.
3. Hank Williams Jr. Channeling His Legendary Father
Hank Williams Jr. performed quite a few times on Hee Haw – and every time he did, he was always game to have fun with the hosts, whether it was sharing some jokes or chiming in on their corny banters.
But of those, the best moment came when he sang one of his father’s songs, “Mind Your Own Business.” Hank Jr. was wearing his iconic cowboy, sunglasses, and trademark beard as he made a remarkable version of the classic. The crowd absolutely fell in love with it.
Hank Jr.’s version of “Mind Your Own Business” was actually the most successful, going to No. 1 on the country chart for two weeks.
4. Loretta Lynn Iconic Duet With Conway Twitty
Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn were among the greatest singing duos in country music history and were the most beloved guest stars of Hee Haw. In 1973, the two country legends joined forces for a special treat and launched into a duet of “Never Ending Song of Love.”
The two then became the show’s most frequent guests, with Lynn having a total of 24 appearances.
5. “Pfft! You Was Gone”
Related: Is Hee Haw Coming Back Soon?
“Pfft! You Was Gone” was the show’s most popular recurring song where singers had to blow raspberries. One remarkably special performance of that song happened during the tenth-anniversary episode of Hee Haw wherein songwriter Bix Reichner wrote a new version particularly for the episode. Dressed in straw hats, plaid shirts, and overalls, Gordie Tapp and Archie Campbell delivered a dramatic performance of the song – exchanging lines until reaching the chorus: “I searched the world over and thought I’d found true love. But you met another. And pfft! You was gone.”
Isn’t it refreshing to look back on the forerunners’ past performances, which inspired so much in the genre today? These are the classic country music moments we live for.
Indeed, Hee Haw was a TV show like no other.
Archie Campbell, buck owens, Gordie Tapp, Grandpa Jones, Hee Haw, Lisa Todd, Minnie Pearl, roy acuff, roy clark
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