Hee Haw TV Showcase for Country Music and Humor with Grandpa Jones
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Becoming a fan
I’ll admit that I was not a fan of this show when it originally ran. I thought it was corny and demeaned “hillbillies.” I have come to the conclusion that the hillbillies themselves encouraged some of this stereotype because it sells. I have been watching reruns of the show and looking at other aspects of it. Yes, it is corny but I guess I’ve learned to like that. I have also learned a lot more about country music. Hee Haw showcased musicians such as Buck Owens, Roy Clark, Minnie Pearle and Grandpa Jones. The show had many other regulars and various county and western singers as guests.
The show was set in a fictional rural Kornfield Kounty. It was a summer replacement in 1969 for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. It ran from 1969-1971 and then had a 20-year-run in local syndication. It was dropped in 1971 because CBS executives thought that shows like this one along with The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry RFD, and Green Acres appealed to only a rural, older and less affluent audience. The reality was that the how was successful in all major markets, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
The show was a take off of the Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-in and I personally was surprised to see Hee- Haw become more popular. It is currently being run on the RFD channel on Sundays.
For an American show it owes lot of creativity to Canada. Two of the three creators of the show were Canadians and comedy writers Frank Peppian and John Alysworth were also from Canada. Yongestreet Productions named after Yonge Street, which is a major Street in Toronto, produced it. Actually, it is no great surprise as many folk and country singers in America came in Canada. including Oscar brand, Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot.
When there was a decline in audience in 1991 and affiliate stations were dropping the show they tried to be more pop orientated to attract younger viewers. Another big mistake. They changed the scene from cornfields to city streets and shopping malls. The music became more po, but it only served to alienate its old audience. In 1992 the series ended and went into syndication.
Buck Owens had left the show in 1986 leaving Roy Clark to carry the show with guest co-hosts.
In 1992 Roy Clark hosted the show called Hee Haw Silver hosting with some new material and classic clips. And ran during the 1992-1993 season as a commeration of their silver anniversary.
In 1993 the show had been on the air for21 years.
A sampling of the skits that I like
- KORN news Charlie Fahquarson played by Don Harron would deliver the somewhat local news in his own inimitable way. He called Oprah Winfrey "Opry Windbag." Harron would later resurrect the character on The Red Green Show (from Wikipedia)
- Samuel B. Sternwheeler Gordie Trapp spoofs Mark Twain giving homilies, which are usually nonsensical. He would then be hit over the head over given something that explodes in his face.
- The Moonshiners Usually consists of two male cast members playing lethargic hillbillies and tell jokes while dozing on the floor near a bunch of jugs. There are scantily clad girls in the background. Beauregard the Wonders Dog a hound who is wondrously lethargic, I think, steals the scene.
- Pickin’ and grinnin’ Buck Owens plays guitar and Roy Clark plays Banjo along with the whole cast. Sometimes a guest star would sit between them. They would play some music in a dueling style, tell jokes and recite one-liners.
- Misty’s Bedtime Stories Misty Rowe a popular cast member is featured. Off stage grandpa Jones would whisper” 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 telling a bizarre story-sometimes a nursery rhyme rewritten, she would giggle, wink to the camera and blow out the candle.
- Hey Grandpa! What’s for Supper These skits open with grandpa Jones cleaning a windowpane, however there is no glass in the window. The audience shouts “Hey, grandpa! What’s for supper?” He would usually describe a country style dinner such as chicken and biscuits smothered in rich gravy, and collard greens. Other times it might be a thawed out TV dinner.
- Kornfield Kounty Operator service: Irene Mandrell is the Kornfield Kounty’s telephone operator. Who would answer phone calls from various residents who would eventually hang up in frustration. Then she would innocently say. “And they wonder why we operators turn gray!”
- Little Yellow Chicken This was an animated chicken that mistook anything for an egg. It would sit on various items including a bomb. Other animated critters would appear throughout the show.
The show had numerous country stars such as Minnie Pearl. It had country music, bluegrass, gospel and other traditional styles.
I am sorry I missed out on it in earlier day or more to the point did not appreciate it for both humor and music.
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© 2010 Don A. Hoglund
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