FROM 1969 to 1971, broadcast television brought us "Hee Haw" just as cable was making many new stations available to viewers in East Texas. Whether by cable or the use of those tall, directional, remote controlled antennas many of us had, we were suddenly getting many more television stations than we grew up with.
Hee Haw was Country's answer to Laugh-In and other such shows. Born of writers from Canada, it was a weekly comedy based show with a Country flavor and Country singing to go along with it. They pulled in some real Country stars in Roy Clark and Buck Owens. Owens would sing: "I'm a-Pickin'!" Clark would retort: "And I'm a-Grinnin'!"They added some solid Grand Ole Opry stars for more humor, and then a variety of other players. Barbi Benton, who co-habited with Playboy's Hugh Hefner, was on the show, as were the Hager Twins, Jim and John.
I was in the military and on the other side of the world during most of the time Hee Haw was actually on broadcast television on CBS. But by the time I got out of the military and back to East Texas, Hee Haw was heavily in syndication. The show remained on syndication for about another twenty years.
Hee Haw was wildly popular in East Texas. You could flip the channel around most any time, night or day, and the odds were pretty good someone would be running Hee Haw or reruns of the show. I used to tell people "it's the law in East Texas - Hee Haw has to be showing at all times on at least one channel!"
My favorite part of the show was "Gloom, Despair, and Agony on me (Woe!)." They were weekly tales in which several members would take turns telling their tale of woe. The chorus would always be "if it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all - gloom, despair and agony on me!" Grandpa Jones was in that recurring ski. Don't ask me why, but I always loved that stuff.
Who can forget the show's resident buffoon? Junior Sample was that man. Heavy set and slow of speech, he would implore us to call "BR-549" to follow up on whatever it was he was selling. Nurse Goodbody was another funny character, as was Goober, the character George Lindsey had created for Andy Griffith's TV show. And of course, there was Grandpa Jones' "Hey, Grandpa! What's for Supper?"
There was a segment where people would pop up in the corn field and say funny things. This part was likely modeled on the similar segment of Laugh In, where they opened little doors, popped their head out, and delivered a line.
There were visiting Country singers. There were pretty girls. There were twins! It was a raucous good time for an hour.
Many people who were not from rural areas really did not "get" Hee Haw, although it had large viewership in many of the urban areas. The show recognized that Country folks are funny, too, and not all humor has to be aimed at urban viewers to be successful.
Minnie Pearl and other Grand Ole Opry legends appeared on the show, making it a place where long time fans of music out of Memphis and Nashville could see and hear many of the old stars of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
Hee Haw gave us laughs, music, and a sense of pride about the humor and songs which come out of rural areas.
© 2012, Jim “Pappy” Moore, All Rights Reserved.
Jim “Pappy” Moore is a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home. firstname.lastname@example.org