|Created by||Frank Peppiatt
|Presented by||Buck Owens
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||25|
|Location(s)||Nashville, Tennessee, US|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Original channel||CBS-TV; syndicated|
|Original run||June 15, 1969– September 19, 1992|
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, the major difference being that Hee Haw was far less topical, and was centered on country music and rural Southern culture. Co-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, 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 (a black-oriented program) 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) in downtown Nashville, and later at Opryland USA in East Nashville. 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.
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 demographic (e.g. rural, somewhat older, less affluent, less prone to buy).
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). Under the new format, Clark hosted a mixture of classic clips and new footage. 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.
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.
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 a U.S. program, until Soul Train surpassed it in 1993; Hee Haw is currently the fifth-longest-running off-network 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 episodes of the show on DVD. Among the DVDs 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, and the show has aired there since, currently 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. Concurrent with this special was the unveiling of a Hee Haw exhibit, titled Pickin' and Grinnin', at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.
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 not limited to: Roy Acuff, Cathy Baker, Billy Jim Baker, Barbi Benton, Jennifer Bishop, Archie Campbell, Harry Cole (Weeping Willie), John Henry Faulk, Marianne Gordon (Rogers), Jim and Jon Hager, Victoria Hallman, Diana Goodman Gunilla Hutton, Grandpa Jones, Zella Lehr (the "unicycle girl"), George Lindsey (reprising his "Goober" character from The Andy Griffith Show), Jimmy Little, Irlene Mandrell, Rev. Grady Nutt, Minnie Pearl, Claude "Jackie" Phelps, Slim Pickens, Kenny Price, Anne Randall, Susan Raye, Jimmie Riddle, Lulu Roman, Misty Rowe, Junior Samples, Gailard Sartain, Gerald Smith (the "Georgia Quacker"), Jeff Smith, Roni Stoneman, Linda Thompson, Lisa Todd, Nancy Traylor, Buck Trent, 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 singing group made up of two men and two women, 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 Hee Haw Silver season, which Clark hosted by himself.
Recurring sketches and segments
Some of the most popular sketches and segments on Hee Haw included:
- "PFFT! You Was Gone!"—A comedic duet featured on the premiere episode and holds firm as one of the series' most famous and endearing sketches. In the first few seasons, the song was performed by Archie Campbell, with Gordie Tapp joining on the chorus. In later seasons, a guest star would join Campbell (or another cast member) on the chorus, and the guest star's name would be mentioned somewhere in the song's verse prior to the chorus. On episodes that featured more than one major guest star, the sketch would be repeated so that all the guest stars would have an opportunity to participate. Tapp or the guest star would often stand with his or her back to the viewer holding a pitchfork while Campbell, or the other cast member, holding a scythe, sang the verse. At the end of the solo, Campbell or the cast member would nudge Tapp or the guest star with his or her elbow, as a form of slapstick timing, whereby Tapp or the guest star would then spin around to the camera (reacting as if awakened by the elbow nudge) to join him/her on the chorus:
- "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.
"Hee Haw" magazine (Vol. 1, No. 2, July 1970, A Charlton Publication) attributes this song to Susan Heather (a pseudonym used by Marian B. Yarneall), © 1952, 1965 by Mamy Music Corp out of Paoli, Pa. Later references show copyrights held by Gaylord Program Services, Inc. out of Nashville, TN, but this may be because Gaylord holds the copyrights for "Hee Haw." It appears that this song Phfft! you were gone, with lyrics and arrangement by Heather, was originally composed as a gospel tune. Bob Newman recorded a hillbilly music version of this song on July 3, 1952 as the second single for his 45 record (Catalog #1131) mastered at King Records. Subsequently, this song was then reissued on his "The Kentucky Colonel" album in 1959. Newman is listed as a comedian, so it is probable that this version was the first parody of the original Gospel song. Later artists performing comical versions of this song included Archie Campbell on his Have A Laugh On Me album in 1966, and Buck Owens on his album Too Old To Cut The Mustard in 1972.
- KORN news—A recurring skit in which Charlie Fahrquarson (Don Harron) would humorously spoof the delivery of local news, in his own inimitable way. KORN would become in the later years of the show, KORV. Harron had been performing the character since 1952 on Canadian television, and would continue playing Fahrquarson in many other media venues before, during and after Hee Haw.
- Lulu's Truck Stop—Lulu Roman owned this greasy spoon, where the food was usually pretty bad; Gailard Sartain was also in this skit as the chef Orville.
- Hee Haw Players—Cast members take on some of the Shakespeare classics, with some unexpected twists.
- Hee Haw Amateur Minute—A showcase of some of the worst talent of all. A cast member would play some yokel who would have some kind of bad talent, which would almost always end up with the audience booing it; throwing vegetables and the hook operator yanking said act forcibly off the stage. After the skit, five animated cartoon animals (a duck, a sheep, a pig, a chicken and a goat) would appear onscreen booing, as well.
- Samuel B. Sternwheeler—Gordie Tapp in a spoof of author Mark Twain giving off some homilies which intentionally made little or no sense whatsoever. After these recitations, he would most often be hit over the head with a rubber chicken, or in later years be given a bomb or something that would eventually explode.
- Stringbean's Letter From Home: Cast members would sit around a barn porch setting, listening to Stringbean read a letter that he receives from home. The letters often included stories delivered in punch line format.
- The Haystack—A male cast member and a woman (usually one of the Hee Haw Honeys) talk about love issues while sitting at the haystack (the skits began with just the top of the haystack on camera and then panned down to reveal the couple).
- Colonel Daddy's daughter—Marianne Gordon was the pampered southern belle daughter of her Colonel Daddy (Gordie Tapp). She would sit on the swing at her plantation home, and would speak about the generosity of her Daddy. In later installments Tapp's character would hardly be seen at all but was always referenced to by his spoiled daughter.
- The Moonshiners—Shown most frequently, were one or two of the male cast (playing a couple of lethargic hillbillies) who would lazily tell a joke while dozing on the floor near a bunch of moonshine jugs and Beauregard the Wonder Dog (Kingfish the Wonder Dog in earlier shows), with two or three of the Hee Haw Honeys reclining in the background.
- School Scenes—There were always school scenes during the show's run. At first, it was with Jennifer Bishop and Lulu Roman as the put-upon teachers, with most notably, Junior Samples and Roy Clark as the students. When Minnie Pearl joined the cast, they had a larger classroom scene with, at first, real children as the students, but would later return to the cast members playing children, with Pearl still as the teacher.
- Advice to the Lovelorn--Hee Haw Honey Lisa Todd, reclining on a living room sofa, gives wacky love advice in a sultry manner.
- The Culhanes—The adventures of the Culhane family, depicted as all they did was sit on an old-fashioned sofa in the parlor, which focused on Cousin Clem Culhane (Gordie Tapp); Cousin Junior Culhane (Junior Samples); Cousin Grandpa Culhane (Grandpa Jones); and Cousin Lulu Culhane (Lulu Roman) who would sit in deadpan character and comment, à la soap opera. After the death of Junior, his role was filled by cast-member Mike Snider in the role of Cousin Mike, of course.
- Pickin' and Grinnin'—Musical interludes with Owens (on guitar) and Clark (on banjo) and the entire cast. (Owens: "I'm a-pickin' !" Clark: "And I'm a-grinnin' !"), with the duo (and sometimes a guest star sitting between Buck and Roy) 'dueling' by playing guitar and banjo to the tune of "Cripple Creek," telling jokes and reciting one-liners. The sketch always ended with Roy's banjo solo, each time ending a different comical way. At first it was just Clark and Owens, and later on the entire cast joined in. By the time the entire cast joined in, the sketch was introduced by Cathy Baker.
- Samples Sales—Used car salesman role for Junior Samples, with Misty Rowe as his later assistant, in his guise as a magician called Junior the Great, would try to palm off a major 'clunker' and then hold up a sign to remind viewers that his phone number was "BR-549". It was changed to "BR-1Z1Z", in the show's later seasons. (At that time, local phone calls in virtually all of the US required dialing seven-digit numbers.) The reason for the change from BR-549 to BR-1Z1Z was during the 1980 season, Junior gave up the car lot and became a "consumer advocate" whose job was to save the public from dishonest people like himself. The next season he went back to the car lot gig but changed the number. (Hee Haw tapes were later sold using the "800" number 1-800-BR54949; also, the country music group BR5-49 adopted the number as the name of their band.)
- "Gloom, Despair and Agony On Me"—Another popular sketch usually performed by four male cast members (originally and usually Roy Clark; Gordie Tapp; Grandpa Jones and Archie Campbell) sitting around in hillbilly garb surrounded by moonshine jugs and looking overtly miserable. The song began with the chorus, which all of them sang with each one alternating (in lip-synch) a mournful howl after each of the first three lines. The chorus went:
- "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!"
Each quartet member sang one line of the verse- a different one for each performance, followed by each cast 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. (In later seasons the female cast got their own version of the song, first just lip-synching the male vocals, but later getting their own feminized version complete with female howls of mourning.)
- The Gossip Girls—Musical pieces featuring various female members of the cast surrounding a washtub and clothes wringer singing:
- "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!"
The sketch was modeled after "Gloom, Despair..." and featured a new verse every episode. Misty Rowe, a mainstay 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 skit, in retaliation for the girls singing "Gloom, Despair...". In later seasons, the four female cast members sang about a male cast member in the Cornfield.
(For the first few seasons of each skit, the "Gossip Girls" and "Gloom, Despair.." songs began with the chorus, followed by the new verse, and ended with a repeat of the chorus; but in later years the repeat of the chorus was discontinued.)
- "Hee Haw Salutes..."—Two or three times in each episode, Hee Haw would salute a selected town (or a guest star's hometown) and announce its population, which was sometimes altered for levity, at which point the entire cast would then 'pop up' from the cornfield, shouting "SAA-LUTE!!" (sometimes after the salute, Archie Campbell would pronounce the saluted town spelled backwards. Example: "Remember, 'Franklin' spelled backwards is 'Nil-knarf'.")
- The Fence—Two or three times during each show a cast member, standing in front of a high wooden fence, would tell a one liner joke. (Example: "I crossed an elephant with a gopher." Everybody in unison: "What'ja get?" "Some awfully big holes in the backyard.") Regardless of whether the joke teller was female or male, a portion of the fence would swing up and hit them on the rear end after the punch line was delivered.
- Archie's Barber Shop—Scenes with Archie Campbell, regular customer Roy Clark, and two or three other regulars sitting in the "waiting chairs" (on some occasions Junior Samples would be the one going into the barber's chair). Campbell would share comic dialog with Clark or tell one of his "backwards fairy tales" such as "Rindercella."
- Doc Campbell—This long-running skit featured Archie Campbell playing the part of a doctor who often gave out terrible advice and bizarre medical "facts". Patients would often be one of the show's cast-members. The skit is also remembered for cast-member Gunilla Hutton's role as the doctor's assistant, Nurse Goodbody. Sometimes the skits would feature only the doctor and his nurse...with Archie hollering "Nurse Goodbody! Nurse Goodbody! Get in HERE!" to which she'd come into the scene looking nervous.
- Justus O'Peace—This recurring skit featured Archie Campbell as a judge who wore what looked to be a bowler hat, a red undershirt, and suspenders sentencing people to long jail time for some of the most silly misdemeanor "crimes". Years later Archie's son, Phil Campbell, as well as Gordie Tapp appeared in a recurring skit about two police officers..the skit's name escapes me at the moment. They also did a courtroom skit with Dub Taylor as the judge and Gailord Sartain playing his "Cletus Biggs" character (see Biggs, Shy, & Stir).
- Professor Campbell—This recurring segment featured Archie Campbell dressed in a graduate's gown telling viewers the meaning of words, with a comic twist...sometimes wads of paper would fly into the scene as a way of punishing the bad joke that was told.
- Gordie's General Store—Gordie operating a general merchandise store. It was also a place where one of the cast would tell a comedic story. In later years the focus shifted from Kornfield Kounty residents stopping by to the comedic banter of Gordie and Gailord Sartain, who played the role of the incompetent Maynard, who often would send Gordie into fits of anger or agony by the skit's end.
- Misty's Bedtime Stories—This skit featured bedtime stories delivered by Misty Rowe, one of the more popular cast-members. Grandpa Jones would be heard off-camera whispering "And now it's time for Misty's bedtime stories". A lighted candle would be sitting on the night stand beside her bed and after she was through delivering one of her bizarre stories, sometimes a re-written nursery rhyme, she'd giggle, wink to the camera, and blow out the candle...end of skit.
- Empty Arms Hotel—Roy Clark as the head desk clerk at one of the few accommodations in all of Kornfield Kounty, who would pop up from behind the front desk after the bell was rung.
- Goober's Garage—George Lindsay was the star of this regular skit where he'd play his Andy Griffith role, often talking about cars and jalopies with whichever cast member that appeared in the skit that week. Sometimes non cast-member Jack Burns would appear in the skit as the city slicker/con-artist type trying to pull a fast one with Goober emerging more intelligent. For a short time in the early 1980s, Chase Randolph appeared in the skit as a muscular "hunk" mechanic being pursued by Honeys Diana Goodman, Misty Rowe and Nancy Traylor. The running gag is that Chase was more interested in fixing up cars than giving in to the advances of the girls, while Goober then offered to go out with the girls instead—only for the girls to ignore his requests and appear disappointed.
- The Farmer's Daughter—Linda Thompson portrays the daughter of a strict farmer (Kenny Price), who comes up with humorous ways to forbid her from seeing her boyfriend Billy Bob.
- "Hee Haw's All-Jug Band"—A musical segment, featuring most of the female cast members, singing a comical song, in which the punch line differed each week. Regular, Lulu Roman, "played" moonshine jugs (by which, she would blow air over the spout, creating a "humming sound"), which partially explains the segment's title (as well as the fact that "jugs" is a dysphemism for breasts). Minnie Pearl introduced the segment each week, loudly announcing, "We're gonna play now!"; at the end of the song, she would similarly conclude "We're through playin' now!"
- "Hey Grandpa! What's for supper?"—Grandpa Jones is cleaning a window pane (with no glass in it, as evidenced by Jones' hand dangling through the window pane as he recites the menu) and recites a dinner menu in poetic verse. Often, he would describe a delicious, country-style meal (e.g., chicken and biscuits smothered in rich gravy, and collard greens), and the audience would reply approvingly, "yum-m yum-m!"; although sometimes he would serve a less than spectacular meal (thawed out TV dinners), to which the cast would reply, "yuck!" One notable run-through of the routine had Grandpa saying "Ah ain't got nuthin'!", which would be the one of the few times he ever got booed during this routine. The second time was when he offered "a big fresh roast of good moose meat".
- JerryRalphRVBobBeavis—This is a skit that appeared mostly in the 1980s and it featured Gailord Sartain as the owner of a small store/flea market attempting to sell junk. The skit would start with a hand-held camera zooming up to the front door and the door being flung open to reveal the fast-talking salesman standing behind the counter surrounded by the junk he was trying to sell. The character was a clown...with red cheeks and wild clown hair...and the running joke was his attempts of becoming a big singing star and in every skit just as he was preparing to pull out a guitar and start to sing, the camera would zoom out and the door swing shut.
- Biggs, Shy, & Stir—This featured Gailord Sartain as "Cletus Biggs of Biggs, Shy, & Stir - Kornfield Kounty's most honorable law firm - where our motto is, 'When in doubt, sue!'" He would advertise the week's "special" such as "Sue Your Parents Week" or "Sue Your Teacher Week", etc. He always closed by saying, "Remember, we're in the alley behind the courthouse above the pool hall!"
- The Cornfield—Vignettes patterned after Laugh-In's "Joke Wall," with cast members and guest stars 'popping up' to tell jokes and one-liners. Until his death, "Stringbean" played the field's 'scarecrow,' delivering one-liners before being shouted down by the 'crow' on his shoulder; after his 1973 murder, he was not replaced, and the 'scarecrow' simply was seen in the field as a memorial. On occasion, personalities from TV stations that carried Hee Haw would appear in this segment with Owens or Clark.
- The Naggers—Routines with Gordie Tapp and Roni Stoneman as LaVern and Ida Lee Nagger, a backwoods bickering couple, inspired in part by the radio comedy The Bickersons. Kenny Price made occasional appearances (starting in 1974) as their son Elrod; and Wendy Suits of the show's background singing group, The Nashville Edition, would sometimes play Ida Lee's equally nagging mother.
- Kornfield Kounty Operator Assistance—Irlene Mandrell as Kornfield Kounty's telephone operator (similar to Lily Tomlin's more famous character, Ernestine Tomlin) would answer phone calls from various Kornfield Kounty residents, who would eventually hang up in various degrees of frustration, causing the Operator to often say, innocently, "And they wonder why we telephone operators turn gray!"
- Grinder's Switch Gazzette—This skit featured Minnie Pearl as a newspaper worker who often insisted that her mute secretary, Miss Honeydew (Victoria Hallman), take down an "important" news item which was always nonsense.
- About 200 Years Ago—This skit which ran during 1975-76 (to coincide with the Bicentennial Year 1976) was a parody of CBS' "Bicentennial Minutes"; in it, Grandpa Jones would deliver a fractured historical "fact" about the Revolutionary era.
- Archie's Angels—Aired in the mid-to-late 1970s, this skit was Hee Haw's knockoff of Charlie's Angels, the popular TV crime show from that period. Three of the Honeys portrayed the Angels, with Archie Campbell's voice giving them an assignment over an intercom, as was with the actual Charlie's Angels TV show.
- "Let's Truck Together"—This short-lived skit reflected the CB radio craze during the mid-to-late 1970s. Kenny Price and Gailard Sartain, as truck drivers, would swap funny stories and one-liners with each other over the CB airwaves.
- Hee Haw Honky Tonk—With the Urban Cowboy craze in full swing in the early 1980s, Hee Haw answered with its very own Urban Cowboy-esque honky-tonk. (Even Buck Owens developed an Urban Cowboy look by growing a beard and donning a cowboy hat and kept this image for the next several seasons.) The sketch was spin-off of "Pickin' and Grinnin'", with cast members, as patrons of the honky-tonk, throwing out one-liners between parts of the "Hee Haw Honky Tonk" song. The Honky Tonk was replete with its mechanical bull; and often showed Ida Lee Nagger (Roni Stoneman) chasing men with a net. This was patterned after the Party on Laugh-In. The "Hee Haw Honky Tonk" set also became the main stage for most of the musical performances for the rest of the series' run.
- Kurl Up and Dye—This is a skit from its later years which featured several of the cast-members in a beauty parlor where they'd gossip..from time to time Gailord Sartain would appear in drag as one of the fussy women.
- Fit as a Fiddle—This skit ran in the 1980s to reflect the aerobic dancing craze of that period. The skit featured several of the female cast members including Diana Goodman, Victoria Hallman, Gunilla Hutton, Misty Rowe and Nancy Traylor, delivering one-liner jokes while aerobic dancing.
- Slim Picken's Bar-B-Q—Slim would have his friends over at a barbecue at his home, where a musical guest would perform. The segment would always open up spoofing Burma-Shave road signs as some of the Hee-Haw cast were seen piled on a truck driving down the road to Slim's Bar-B-Q whose guests often complained about the food to which Slim would counter with something like "I may not have prime meat at this picnic but I do have prime entertainment..." and then he'd bring out the entertainment.
- The Post Office—Minnie Pearl and Grandpa Jones ran the post office who often dealt with (mostly) unhappy customers.
- The Quilt—Minnie Pearl gave romantic advice to Diana Goodman and several of the Hee Haw Honeys while making a quilt.
- Knock Knock—Buck Owens told a knock-knock joke to an unsuspecting cast member or guest star. If the guest star was a major country artist, the joke would be written to reveal the punch-line answer to be the title to one of the singer's biggest hits, which Owens would then sing badly, on purpose.
- The Hambone Brothers—Jackie Phelps doing some rhythmic knee-slapping (known as hambone) while Jimmy Riddle eefed.
- The Little Yellow Chicken—An animated little yellow chicken who would always mistake anything and everything for an egg. The chicken would sit on items, such as a ringside bell; a man's bald head; a billiard ball; a football; a golf ball, and even a bomb, with various disastrous results. The little chicken was produced by Format Films.
- Animated Critters—Interspersed within the show, besides the above mentioned chicken, were various applauding or laughing animated farm animals; a kickline composed of pigs; a pack of dogs that would chase an extremely bad joke teller; three sultry pigs that twirled their necklaces; a square dancing female pig and a male donkey; a pair of chickens dancing, with one of them falling flat on its face; the ubiquitous Hee Haw Donkey, who would say "Wouldn't that dunk your hat in the creek?" among other quips; and a pig (from the kickline) that would sneak up on a musical guest (or a cast member, mostly Roy Clark) and kiss him on the cheek among others. Sometimes, certain animals would carry appropriate signs with some kind of quip (e.g. Hee Haw Donkey holding a sign that would say, "I'm looking for a "She-Haw!" or in later years, "Let us Bray!"; a pig from the kickline holding a sign which would say, "oink!"; "Down with Ham and Eggs!"; or "Please DON'T Bring Home the Bacon!"; a skunk would take his nose off and dribble it like a basketball before putting it back on while holding a sign which reads "Welcome to Smell-a-vision!"; a duck with a sign which usually reads "Eat Quacker Oats"; or a cow coming into the scene and opening a sign that would say something like "Stop Beefing!" or "I married a Bum Steer"). The animation was produced by Format Films.
Guest stars often participated in some of the skits (mostly the PFFT! You Was Gone skit); however, this did not occur until later seasons.
While the meat of the segments were comedy-based, there were several serious, music-based segments, including:
- The Million Dollar Band—This was a jam-session segment, airing from 1980 through 1988, composed of legendary Nashville musicians Chet Atkins, Boots Randolph, Roy Clark, Floyd Cramer, Charlie McCoy, Danny Davis, Jethro Burns, and Johnny Gimble.
- A singer-songwriter segment, where one of the guest performers for the week would sing one of his popular hits. Then, he would introduce a song he/she wrote and was made popular by another artist.
- The Hee Haw Gospel Quartet: Almost always closed the show's last segment. Clark, Owens, Grandpa Jones, and Kenny Price would sing a gospel hymn. Several of their performances were released as recordings. Joe Babcock took over as lead singer after Owens left the show. Ray Burdette sang bass after the death of Kenny Price, but the Quartet was not featured as often from that point on. However, the show still closed with a gospel song—if not by the Quartet, then by either the entire cast, a guest gospel artist, or Lulu Roman (a gospel artist herself).
- Twin brother singing duo the Hagers would also perform a song each week on the show.
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 ended with Owens and Clark saying:
- "So long everybody! We'll see you next week on...HEE-HAW!!"
- The closing song was replaced in the early 1980s with an uptempo tune with the following lyrics:
- "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!! "
- Of course, the closing credits ran after the closing songs; and after the closing credits, cast member Cathy Baker would utter her trademark sign-off line, "That's all!" (and preceded from the mid-1980s to 1992 by "This has been a Gaylord Production from Opryland USA!").
- After Owens left the show, no closing song was used. Instead, Clark and the guest co-host for that week would just simply say a few closing remarks before signing off.
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.
Hee Haw featured at least two, and sometimes three or four, guest celebrities each week. While most of the guest stars were of course country music artists, a wide range of other famous luminaries were featured. Those making guest appearances included, but were not limited to: Alabama, Atlanta, Buddy Alan, The Aldridge Sisters, Jed Allan, Rex Allen, Paul Anka, Bill Anderson, John Anderson, Lynn Anderson, Garner Ted Armstrong, Eddy Arnold, Chet Atkins, Gene Autry, Hoyt Axton, Baillie & the Boys, Razzy Bailey, Butch Baker, Moe Bandy, Ava Barber, Billy Barty, Molly Bee, Johnny Bench, Matraca Berg, Byron Berline, Amanda Blake, Suzy Bogguss, Randy Boone, Tony Booth, actor Ernest Borgnine, former pro football player and current FOX NFL Sunday co-host Terry Bradshaw, comedian Foster Brooks, Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn, the Bellamy Brothers, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Family Brown, Jim Ed Brown, Marty Brown, T. Graham Brown, The Buckaroos (Buck Owens' band), Jethro Burns, Johnny Bush, comedianne Ruth Buzzi, West Virginia senator Robert Byrd, Glen Campbell, Eric Carmen, Billy Carter, June Carter, Lionel Cartwright, Johnny Cash, Bill Caswell, Ray Charles, Don Cherry, comedian Jerry Clower, Mark Collie, Jessi Colter, John Conlee, David L Cook, Helen Cornelius, Beverly Cotten-Dillard, Billy "Crash" Craddock, Floyd Cramer, Rob Crosby, Scatman Crothers, Vic Damone, Charlie Daniels, Dave & Sugar, Desert Rose Band, Gail Davies, Danny Davis, Linda Davis, singer/actor Sammy Davis, Jr., Skeeter Davis, Billy Dean, pro baseball player and commentator Dizzy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Diamond Rio, Dillard & Clark, The Dillards, Al Downing, Johnny Duncan, Connie Eaton, Dale Evans, Exile, Barbara Fairchild, Donna Fargo, pool player Minnesota Fats, Freddy Fender, Lester Flatt, Bela Fleck, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Eugene Fodor, Tennessee Ernie Ford, The Forester Sisters, Janie Fricke, David Frizzell, Larry Gatlin, Crystal Gayle, Will Geer, Don Gibson, TV personality Kathie Lee Gifford, Vince Gill, Mickey Gilley, Johnny Gimble, The Glaser Brothers, George Gobel, Southern gospel quartet Gold City, Bobby Goldsboro, Billy Grammer, Amy Grant, Lee Greenwood, Clinton Gregory, Lewis Grizzard, Oscar the Grouch, Merle Haggard, Gus Hardin, Phil Harris, Freddie Hart, John Hartford, Tom T. Hall, Dick Haynes, Roy Head, Hugh Hefner, John Hiatt, Highway 101, Becky Hobbs, David Holt, David Houston, David Huddleston, Tommy Hunter, Southern gospel group The Inspirations, Alan Jackson, Wanda Jackson, Jana Jae, Sonny James, Waylon Jennings, Jim & Jesse, George Jones, The Judds, Kieran Kane, Stan Kann, The Kendalls, Hal Ketchum, Merle Kilgore, Alan King, Alison Krauss, k.d. lang, pro baseball manager Tommy Lasorda, Brenda Lee, Dickey Lee, Johnny Lee, Robin Lee, Jerry Lee Lewis, Lloyd Lindroth, George Lindsey, LaWanda Lindsey, Eddie London, Trini Lopez, Kenny Lovelace, Lyle Lovett, Loretta Lynn, Shelby Lynne, Larry Mahan, Barbara Mandrell, Louise Mandrell, Mickey Mantle, Kathy Mattea, C. W. McCall, Charly McClain, O. B. McClinton, Mel McDaniel, Pake McEntire, Reba McEntire, The McGuire Sisters, Catherine McKinnon, TV personality Ed McMahon, Terry McMillan, actress Ethel Merman, Jody Miller, Roger Miller, the Million Dollar Band, Mission Mountain Wood Band, Ronnie Milsap, Bill Monroe, Lorrie Morgan, Gary Morris, Dude Mowrey, comedian Gary Mule Deer, pro baseball player Stan Musial, Willie Nelson, actor Leslie Nielsen, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Oak Ridge Boys (including the time when they were still a gospel group, before Joe Bonsall became a member), Mark O'Connor, Marie Osmond, Tommy Overstreet, Patti Page, Dolly Parton, Stella Parton, Johnny Paycheck, Carl Perkins, TV personality Regis Philbin, Vernon Presley (Elvis' father), Ray Price, Charley Pride, Ronnie Prophet, Jeanne Pruett, Eddie Rabbitt, Boots Randolph, Wayne Raney, Eddy Raven, Susan Raye, Shotgun Red, Jerry Reed, The Remingtons, Charlie Rich, Riders in the Sky, Jeannie C. Riley, John Ritter (actor and son of Tex Ritter), Marty Robbins, TV evangelist Oral Roberts, Dale Robertson, Johnny Rodriguez, Linda Ronstadt, Kenny Rogers, Roy Rogers, John Schneider, TV personality Willard Scott, Doc Severinson, Victoria Shaw, Jean Shepard, T. G. Sheppard, actor Sonny Shroyer, Ricky Skaggs, Cal Smith, Connie Smith, Margo Smith, Sons of the Pioneers, Billie Jo Spears, Jim Stafford, Joe Stampley, Kenny Starr, The Statler Brothers, Keith Stegall, Skip Stephenson, Ray Stevens, Roni Stoneman, George Strait, Sweethearts of the Rodeo, Sylvia, Dub Taylor, Les Taylor, comedian Rip Taylor, B.J. Thomas, Hank Thompson, Sue Thompson, Mel Tillis, Pam Tillis, Aaron Tippin, Diana Trask, Merle Travis, Randy Travis, Buck Trent, Travis Tritt, Ernest Tubb, Tanya Tucker, Mary Lou Turner, Conway Twitty, Donna Ulisse, Conny Van Dyke, Bobby Vinton, Steve Wariner, former NASCAR race car driver and current NASCAR commentator Darrel Waltrip, B. B. Watson, Gene Watson, actor Dennis Weaver, Kitty Wells, Dottie West, Shelly West, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Danny White, The Whites, Boxcar Willie, Don Williams, Leona Williams, Paul Williams, Hank Williams, Jr., Sheb Wooley, Tom Wopat, Tammy Wynette, Dwight Yoakam, Faron Young, Henny Youngman, and Red Zellner, along with numerous lesser known artists and young aspiring performers. 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.
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, 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." 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. 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.
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.
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.
The Elvis Connection
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: Linda Thompson in the early 1970s (with whom Presley also had a steady relationship 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.
Hee Haw Honeys (spin-off series)
Hee Haw produced a short-lived spin-off series, Hee Haw Honeys, for the 1978-79 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" skit 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. Cast members would also perform songs occasionally.
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).
- 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!""
- U.S. Copyright Office (1997-12-03). "Phfft! you were gone.". Copyright Catalog (1978 to present). Library of Congress. Retrieved 2009-02-06.
- Grandpa Jones booed[Video Removed]
- 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
- Martin, Jeff , This Land, January 2011, accessed July 6, 2011.
- The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. Ballantine Books. 2003. ISBN 0-345-45542-8.
- Record Label (December 7, 2012). "Homesick Entertainment Projects". Homesick Entertainment. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
- Official website
- Episode Guide and guest appearance list at TV.Com
- Hee Haw on RFD-TV
- Hee Haw at the Internet Movie Database
- Hee Haw at TV.com
- Risa's Hee Haw Tribute Page
- Riddle & Phelps place third in TV Greats Countdown
- Voices of Oklahoma interview with Roy Clark. First person interview conducted with Roy Clark on August 15, 2011. Original audio and transcript archived with Voices of Oklahoma oral history project.