Friday, March 21, 2014

Classic TV: Hee Haw (1969)

It was Nashville's answer to Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, and even though Hee Haw only spent three seasons on CBS, it actually outlasted Laugh-In by what amounted to a country mile, thanks to a 20+ year run in syndication.

Everyone has their favorite segments: "Gloom, Despair, & Agony on Me". "Pickin' & Grinnin'". The cornfield, which was the show's version of Laugh-In's joke wall. News reporter Charlie Farqueson (Don Herron). The Empty Arms Hotel. And so much more.

Country singers Roy Clark & Buck Owens, to reverse the billing, were the ringmasters for this three-or-more-ring circus of country silliness, although Owens left several years into the syndication era. Established talents such as Grandpa Jones and Stringbean were well known as bluegrass musicians before joining Hee Haw, and for a number of years, Jones' holiday tale of "The Christmas Guest" was a regular on country radio playlists. We've previously featured the Hee Haw Gospel Quartet, whose membership at various points included Clark, Owens, Jones, and Kenny Price. Price, along with Lulu Roman and Misty Rowe, was briefly spun off into a sitcom, Hee Haw Honeys, which helped the career of singer-actress-turned-talk-show host Kathie Lee Gifford (then known as Kathie Lee Johnson) in a big way, even though Honeys lasted just 1 season. For Rowe, it was the 2nd sitcom bomb, the other being 1975's When Things Were Rotten. We'll discuss Honeys another time.

Shortly after the series shifted to syndication, actor George Lindsey joined the show, bringing with him his Mayberry RFD character of Goober Pyle, who had of course debuted on The Andy Griffith Show. Lindsey would also demonstrate some singing ability with a few novelty numbers during the course of his run. As time went by, actors Dub Taylor, Slim Pickens, and Joe Higgins (the sheriff in those Dodge Trucks ads in the 70's) joined the show for periods of time. As memory serves, Pickens & Taylor joined around the same time that country legend Roy Acuff did.

To give you some idea, here's Archie Campbell & Gordie Tapp, with another favorite bit, "Pfft, You Was Gone", which makes good use of the razzberry.

Currently, the series airs in reruns on RFD-TV (check your listings), which in some markets is a premium service.

Campbell was one of the best performers on the show, and even recorded a cover of Mike Douglas' "The Men in My Little Girl's Life" several years ago. Oh, what fun!

Rating: A.

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