1 9 6 9 – 1 9 9 3 (USA)
Country singers Roy Clark and Buck Owens hosted this CBS country music variety/comedy series.
Blackouts, nutty running gags, cameos by assorted guest stars and some of the worst corny one-liners imaginable – appropriately delivered from a cornfield – all contributed to the what became known as “The Country Version of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.”
An animated donkey was used on a regular basis to react to the humour and to provide the “hee-haw” of the title.
A memorable feature was the section including mixed-up fairy tales – such as “Rindercella danced with the pransome hince at the bancy fall but she slopped her dripper. . .”
Although the humour was purposely cornball, the music was first-rate country. Co-hosts Owens and Clark were both major country stars – Roy Clark being one of the best banjoist-guitarists in the business.
Other big-name country stars, both current and long-established, were also featured on a regular basis.
Hee Haw was in the top 20 nationally when it was dropped from the network in 1971, a victim of CBS’s decision to “de-ruralise” its programming. Like Lawrence Welk, it quickly went into syndication with all-new shows and became a major hit on a non-network basis.
On 11 November 1973, comedian David Akeman – who played the role of Stringbean – was found shot to death at his home. His wife, Estelle, 60, was also killed. Police said the couple apparently surprised burglars upon returning home after Akeman’s appearance at the Grand Ole Opry.
A funeral home employee later found $3,500 in Akeman’s bib overalls and $2,200 in his wife’s clothing. The cash was apparently overlooked by both the police investigators and the killers
When co-host Buck Owens left the show after the 1985-1986 season, he was not replaced. Instead, Roy Clark was joined by a weekly guest co-host.
In 1991, Hee Haw was given a complete overhaul to try and attract a more contemporary audience. The cornfield was gone and the primary sets were now a city street and shopping mall.
Many of the long-time regulars had been replaced by a whole new cast of young unknowns to attract a younger audience. The changes backfired resulting in not the accumulation of new viewers but the exact opposite. Many loyal viewers of the venerable show who weren’t interested in the new look or the unfamiliar faces merely tuned out.
That summer, Hee Haw went out of production thus ending its quarter-century on the air.
Alvis Edgar “Buck” Owens
Louis M. “Grandpa” Jones
Claude “Jackie” Phelps
Alvin “Junior” Samples
David ‘Stringbean’ Akeman
The Hee Haw Band
The Nashville Edition
Marianne Gordon Rogers
John Henry Faulk
Rev. Grady Nutt
The Wild West & Fanci
Bruce Williams and Ted Ree
Alice Hathaway Ripley
Gary Mule Deer
The Hee Haw Singers