Hee Haw was an American televisionvariety show featuring country music and humor with fictional rural "Kornfield Kounty" as a backdrop. It aired on CBS from 1969–1971 followed by a 21-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 countryMusic and rural 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 corn pone 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, Boston, and Chicago. Other niche programs such as The Lawrence Welk Show (which targeted older audiences) and Soul Train (which targeted black 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 on another day, etc. At the height of its popularity, an entire season's worth of shows would be taped in two separate week-long sessions, then individual shows were 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 CBS at its network affiliate WLAC-TV (now WTVF) in downtown Nashville, and later at Opryland USA in the Donelson area of 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.
Hee Haw premiered on CBS 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). The success of Hee Haw and other country-themed shows was the source of a heated dispute in CBS's corporate offices; Michael Dann, although he personally disliked the shows, considered total viewership the benchmark of success and encouraged the shows to stay on the air, while Fred Silverman believed certain demographics—the ones in which Hee Haw and the others performed poorly—could draw more advertising dollars. Silverman's view won out, and CBS canceled the rural shows in summer 1971.
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 BillboardHot Country Singles chart in the fall of 1972.) Welk and Hee Haw also competed against another music-oriented niche program that moved to syndication in 1971: Soul Train, a black-oriented program (originally a local program based in Chicago) that also went on to a very long run in syndication.
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 season). Under the new format, Clark hosted a mixture of classic clips and new footage.
The Hee Haw Silver episodes spotlighted many of their classic sketches 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 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 an episode airs on Saturday afternoon and the same episode is rerun the following 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.
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).
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 fiddle player Jana Jae, and 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 remainder 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
Some of the most popular sketches and segments on Hee Haw included, but were not limited to:
"PFFT! You Was Gone!"—A comedic duet featured on the premiere episode. 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, usually Tapp, Grandpa Jones, George Lindsey, Kenny Price, Roni Stoneman, Roy Acuff or Dub Taylor) 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 verse, 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 or her on the chorus:
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.
KORN News—Don Harron, as KORN radio announcer Charlie Farquharson, would humorously spoof the delivery of local news, in his own inimitable way. In later seasons, KORN would become KORV. Harron had been performing the character since 1952 on Canadian television, and would continue playing Farquharson in many other media venues before, during and after Hee Haw. (The fictional radio station is not to be confused with the Mitchell, South Dakota-based KORN (AM), KORN-FM, nor Lakeview, Oregon-based KORV.)
Lulu's Truck Stop—Lulu Roman owned this greasy spoon, where the food and customer service was usually pretty bad; Gailard Sartain was also in this sketch 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 sketch, 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, leaving him covered in soot and a shredded suit.
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 included stories delivered in punch line format.
The Haystack—A male cast member (usually either Buck Owens or one of the Hagar twins; later Chase Randolph, Jeff Smith, or Kelly Billingsey), and (usually) one of the Hee Haw Honeys talk about love issues while sitting at the haystack (the sketches 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 in his role of Samuel Sternwheeler). She would sit on the swing at her plantation home, and would speak about the generosity of her Daddy. In later sketches, Tapp's character would no longer be seen but was always referenced to by his spoiled daughter. This sketch replaced the "Samuel B. Sternwheeler" sketch, which had previously been discontinued.
The Moonshiners—Two of the male cast members, 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 seasons, Buford the Wonder Dog in later seasons), with three or four of the Hee Haw Honeys reclining in the background.
School Scenes—There were always school scenes throughout the series' 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 became the teacher, the set was a larger classroom 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 and closes the sketch by winking at the camera. In later seasons of the sketch, George Lindsay, who provided the voice-over introduction in earlier seasons, now appeared on screen wearing a leisure suit, introducing the sketch.
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.
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 major guest star—such as Johnny Cash—sitting between Owens and Clark) "dueling" by playing guitar and banjo the instrumental to "Cripple Creek," telling jokes and reciting one-liners. The sketch always ended with Clark's banjo solo, each time ending a different comical way. For the first couple of seasons the sketch featured only Clark and Owens, and in later seasons the entire cast participated. When the entire cast began participating, the sketch was introduced by the show's emcee Cathy Baker. This sketch would always open the second half of the show.
Samples Sales—Junior Samples, as a used car salesman, would try to palm off a major "clunker" and then hold up a sign to remind viewers that his phone number was "BR-549." (In later seasons, the number was changed to BR-1Z1Z. Also by this time, local phone calls in virtually all of the United States 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 Honey Misty Rowe joined Samples in later seasons as his assistant, and during this time Samples at one point would guise himself as a magician, whom Rowe would introduce as "Junior the Great."
(Hee Haw videos were later sold on TV using the "800" number 1-800-BR54949; also, the country music group BR5-49 adopted the number as the name of the group.)
"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:
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.
The Gossip Girls—This sketch is the female counterpart of "Gloom, Despair," which featured four female cast members surrounding a washtub and clothes wringer singing the chorus:
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, male cast members, 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.)
"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 Joke Fence—Two or three times during each show a cast member (usually a Hee Haw Honey), standing in front of a high wooden fence, would tell a one liner joke. (Example: "I crossed an elephant with a gopher." Entire cast 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—Archie Campbell as the local barber, with 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 sketch 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 sketch is also remembered for cast member Gunilla Hutton's role as Doc Campbell's assistant, Nurse Goodbody. In later seasons, the sketch featured only Doc Campbell and Nurse Goodbody, with the sketch beginning with Campbell shouting, "Nurse Goodbody," to which she would hurry into the office, nervously answering "Yes, Doctor," and gyrating her hips.
Justus O'Peace—This sketch 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 silliest misdemeanor "crimes." Years later Archie's son, Phil Campbell, as well as Gordie Tapp, appeared in a recurring sketch about two police officers. They also did a courtroom sketch with Dub Taylor as the judge and Gailard Sartain in his role of Cletus Biggs from "Biggs, Shy, and Stir."
"Uh-huh, Oh Yeah!"—Cast member and banjo picker Buck Trent would recite a poem, talking blues-style (usually about chickens) to his banjo instrumental. At the end of the poem, Trent would go into a crescendo of "Uh-huh"'s and finish with a climactic "Oh, yeah!" "Uh-huh, oh yeah!" eventually became Trent's trademark phrase and he still says it in his shows, usually accompanied by a double thumbs-up gesture.
Professor Campbell—This sketch 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 Tapp as the owner of a general merchandise store. It was also a place where one of the cast members (usually Junior Samples or Grandpa Jones) would tell a comedic story in early seasons. In later seasons, the focus shifted from Kornfield Kounty residents stopping by to the comedic banter of Tapp and Gailard Sartain, who played the role of Gordie's incompetent employee Maynard, who often would send Tapp into fits of anger or agony by the sketch's end.
Misty's Bedtime Stories—This sketch featured bedtime stories delivered by cast member Misty Rowe. Grandpa Jones or George Lindsay would be heard off-screen introducing the sketch in a near-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 Rowe would deliver one of her bizarre stories, sometimes a rewritten nursery rhyme. By the sketch's end, she would deliver a humorous "moral to the story," giggle, wink at the camera, and blow out the candle.
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, usually by a complaining guest.
Goober's Garage—George Lindsay, in his Andy Griffith role of Goober, as the owner of the local garage where he would talk about cars and jalopies with whomever appeared in the sketch that week. Sometimes non-cast member Jack Burns would appear in the sketch 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 sketch as a muscular "hunk" mechanic hired by Goober and being pursued by Honeys Diana Goodman, Misty Rowe, and Nancy Traylor. The running gag was 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. In later seasons, Goober was joined in the sketch by Goodman, Rowe, and Lisa Todd as his beautiful but not very bright mechanics.
The Farmer's Daughter—Cast member Linda Thompson as the daughter of a strict farmer (Kenny Price), who comes up with humorous and tricky ways to forbid her from seeing her boyfriend Billy Bob.
The Weather Girl—A spin-off of "KORN News," where Hee Haw Honey Lisa Todd would spoof the weather forecast. Gailard Sartain, wearing an inflated globe costume, accompanied Lisa as her human weather map.
(In later seasons, "KORN News" and "The Weather Girl" merged into one sketch.)
"Hee Haw's All-Jug Band"—A musical sketch, featuring most of the female cast members, singing a comical song, in which the punch line differed each week. Cast member Lulu Roman "played" moonshine jugs (by which, she would blow air over the spout, creating a "humming sound"), which partially explains the sketch's title (as well as the fact that "jugs" is a dysphemism for breasts). Minnie Pearl introduced the sketch 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 when the entire cast (off-camera) asks, "Hey, Grandpa, what's for supper," he recites a dinner menu in poetic verse. Often, he describes a delicious, country-style meal (e.g., chicken and biscuits smothered in rich gravy, and collard greens), and the cast would reply approvingly, "yum-m yum-m!" 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 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."
(This sketch went on hiatus for a couple of seasons in the mid-70s, but returned near the end of the 70s and remained in the show until near the end of the series' run.)
Grandpa and Minnie's Kitchen—This sketch, which ran throughout most of the 1970s, spoofed TV cooking shows in which Grandpa Jones and Minnie Pearl would deliver hilarious recipes.
JerryRalphRVBobBeavis—This is a sketch that appeared mostly in the 1980s and it featured Gailard Sartain as the owner of a small store/flea market attempting to sell junk. The sketch 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 at the end of every sketch, just as he's preparing to pull out a guitar and starts to sing, the camera would zoom out and the door would swing shut.
Biggs, Shy, & Stir—This featured Gailard 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 concluded the sketch 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, Stringbean was not replaced; and a wooden scarecrow was simply seen in the field as a memorial. Guest stars often participated in this sketch as well; and on occasion, personalities from TV stations that carried Hee Haw, as well as country music radio personalities, would appear in this sketch with Owens or Clark.
The Naggers—This sketch featured 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 (and deaf) 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 operator Mandrell to often say, innocently, "And they wonder why we telephone operators turn gray!"
Grinder's Switch Gazzette—This sketch featured Minnie Pearl as the manager of the local newspaper 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 sketch, which ran in 1976 in celebration of the Bicentennial year, was a parody of CBS' "Bicentennial Minutes"; in the sketch, Grandpa Jones would deliver a fractured historical "fact" about the Revolutionary era. Jones then concluded the sketch with a knockoff of Walter Cronkite's signature sign-off line, "And that's the way it was, 200 years ago...er, more or less."
The Almanac—A sketch that ran in the late 1970s where Grandpa Jones would deliver almanac entries that made no sense.
Archie's Angels—Aired in the mid-to-late 1970s, this sketch 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 humorous "assignments" over an intercom, as was with the actual Charlie's Angels TV show.
"Let's Truck Together"—This short-lived sketch 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 also included a background conversation track during the one-liners to add to the realism of an actual nightclub. The sketch also at times featured Roni Stoneman, in her role of Ida Lee Nagger, chasing men with a net. The sketch was also 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 sketch from its later years which featured several of the cast members in a beauty parlor where they'd gossip. From time to time, Gailard Sartain would appear in drag as one of the fussy women.
Fit as a Fiddle—This sketch ran in the 1980s to reflect the aerobic dancing craze of that period. The sketch 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. Sometimes cast member Jeff Smith would be seen on an exercise cycle in the background.
Slim Pickens' Bar-B-Q—Slim Pickens 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 cast members were seen piled on a truck driving down the road to Slim Pickens' Bar-B-Q, whose guests often complained about the food, to which Pickens 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 guest star's performance).
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 several of the Hee Haw Honeys while sitting around in a circle, 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 Riddleeefed.
Stories from John Henry Faulk and Rev. Grady Nutt—Beginning in the late 1970s, John Henry Faulk, followed in later seasons by Rev. Grady Nutt, would sit around in a circle with some of the male cast members on the set of Gordie's General Store telling some of their humorous stories (very much in the same manner Grandpa Jones and Junior Samples did in early seasons). At the beginning of Grady Nutt's sketches, Grandpa Jones would introduce Nutt as "Hee Haw's very own Prime Minister of Humor." These sketches discontinued following Nutt's death in a plane crash in 1982.
Ben Colder—A singer of cheesy parodies of popular country songs. Sheb Wooley had created the character before the show began and portrayed the character during his time on the show and his guest appearances.
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 during an instrumental performance; a pack of dogs that would chase an extremely bad joke teller; three sultry pigs that twirled their necklaces during an instrumental performance; a square dancing female pig and a male donkey to an instrumental performance; a pair of chickens dancing, with one of them falling flat on its face; the ubiquitous Hee Haw Donkey, who would say quips such as, "Wouldn't that dunk your hat in the creek," 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 after his performance. 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!" Also, 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 sketches (mostly the "PFFT! You Was Gone" and "The Cornfield" sketches); however, this did not occur until later seasons.
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. Although country music was the primary genre of music featured on the show, guest stars and cast members alike also performed music from other genres, such as oldies and pop standards.
Some of the most popular music-based segments on the show (other than guest stars' performances) included:
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, and Ray Burdette took over as bass singer 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 cast member Lulu Roman (a gospel artist in her own right).
The Hagers: This twin brother singing duo would also perform a song each week on the show.
Performances by cast members: 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, Vicki Bird, 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.
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 from actors and actresses to sports stars. 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 megastar 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 then surprised Lovullo by showing up at the 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 remainder of the series' run. Buck Owens then 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" (as a 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
Elvis Presley was a fan of Hee Haw and wanted to appear as a guest on the program, but Presley was afraid that his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, would not allow him to do so. Two of the Hee Haw Honeys dated Presley long before they joined the cast: Most notably Linda Thompson in the mid-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 a cameo appearance on the show and paid tribute to his late son, noting how much he enjoyed watching 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:
And then (spoken):
The closing song was replaced in the early 1980s with an uptempo tune performed by the entire cast with the following lyrics:
The closing credits ran after the closing songs; and after the closing credits, cast member and emcee Cathy Baker would utter her trademark sign-off line, "That's all!" (and from the mid-1980s to 1992, "This has been a Gaylord Production from Opryland USA. That's all!").
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 and then the entire cast shouted, "See you next week on HEE HAW!"
Hee Haw Honeys (spin-off series)
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 1979-80 television seasons. 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. 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.
Hee Haw Theater
The Hee Haw Theater opened in Branson, Missouri, in 1981 and operated through 1983. It featured live shows using the cast of the television series, as well as guests and other talent. The format was similar with a country variety show-type family theme.
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 of Twitty performing on the show.
Lulu Roman released a new album titled 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).