HEE HAW TRIBUTE
HEE HAW TRIBUTE
Hee Haw is an American television variety show featuring country music and humor with fictional rural Kornfield Kounty as a backdrop. It aired on CBS-TV from 1969–1971 before a 20-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 country music. Initially co-hosted by musicians Buck Owens and Roy Clark, the show was equally well known for its voluptuous, scantily-clad women in stereotypical farmer's daughter outfits, male stars Jim and Jon Hager and its cornpone humor.
Hee Haw's appeal was not limited to a rural audience. It was successful in all of the major markets, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Other niche programs such as The Lawrence Welk Show (which targeted older audiences) and Soul Train (a black-oriented program) 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 another, etc. At the height of its popularity, an entire year's worth of shows would be taped in two separate week-long sessions, then individual shows would be 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 at WLAC-TV (now WTVF) and Opryland USA in 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.
Much of Hee Haw's origin was Canadian. Two of the series' three creators, comedy writers Frank Peppiatt and John Aylesworth, were from Canada. Bernie Brillstein, the third, was from New York. From 1969 until the late 1980s, Hee Haw was produced by Yongestreet Productions, named after Yonge Street, a major thoroughfare in Toronto.
Hee Haw started on CBS-TV 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), owing to network executives' feeling that its viewers reflected the "wrong" demographics (e.g. rural, somewhat older, and less affluent).
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 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 Hee Haw-Lawrence Welk Counter-Revolution Polka," performed by Clark; the song became a top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in the fall of 1972.)
The show's ratings began to decline 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 year). Under the new format, Clark hosted a mixture of classic clips and new footage. The show debuted as a mid-season replacement in June 1969 and because of this its first season is considered to be those first few months on the summer schedule. Its 24th season is referred to the batch of shows that aired from January through May 1992 when it was re-titled The Hee Haw Show. The fall of 1992 marked the beginning of the program's 25th season on the air.
The Hee Haw Silver episodes spotlighted many of the classic comedy skits 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 1994 until 1997. Its 21 years in TV syndication (1971–1992) was the record for a U.S. program, until Soul Train surpassed it in 1993. Subsequently, Entertainment Tonight surpassed it in 2003 and Wheel of Fortune surpassed it in 2005. In 2006, Jeopardy! surpassed it also, making Hee Haw currently the fifth-longest-running off-network American TV program, though the longest of its genre.
During the 2006-2007 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.
Reruns of Hee Haw began airing on RFD-TV in September 2008, and the show has aired there since, currently anchoring the network's Sunday night lineup with a re-airing of that week's episode the following Monday. In 2011 the network began re-airing the earliest episodes from 1969-1970 on Thursday evenings.
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).
Other cast members over the years included: Roy Acuff, Cathy Baker, Billy Jim Baker, Barbi Benton, Jennifer Bishop, Archie Campbell, John Henry Faulk, Marianne Gordon (Rogers), the Hager Twins (Jim and John), Victoria Hallman (as "Miss Honeydew"), Gunilla Hutton (as "Nurse Goodbody"), Grandpa Jones, Zella Lehr (the "unicycle girl"), George Lindsey (reprising his "Goober" character from The Andy Griffith Show), Jimmy Little, Irlene Mandrell, Rev. Grady Nutt, Minnie Pearl, Claude 'Jackie' Phelps, Slim Pickens, Kenny Price, Anne Randall, Susan Raye, Jimmie Riddle, Lulu Roman, Misty Rowe, Junior Samples, Gailard Sartain, Jeff Smith, Roni Stoneman, Linda Thompson, Lisa Todd, Nancy Traylor, and Jonathan Winters, among many others.
The Buckaroos (Buck Owens' band) initially served as the house band on this popular syndicated 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 later Victoria Hallman. In later seasons, harmonica player Charlie McCoy joined the cast and eventually formed the Hee Haw Band, which became the house band for the rest of the series' run. The Nashville Edition, a singing group made up of two men and two women, 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, and David "Stringbean" Akeman and his wife were murdered in November 1973 during a robbery at their home.
Recurring sketches and segments
Some of the most popular sketches and segments on Hee Haw included:
"PFFT! You Was Gone!" : A comedic duet featured on the premiere episode and holds firm as one of the series' most famous and endearing sketches. In early seasons, the song was performed by Campbell and Tapp (both with solemn looks on their faces), in the vein of folk songs like "Oh! Susanna" and "Old Dan Tucker". In later seasons, Tapp would be increasingly replaced by that episode's guest singer, or another surprise celebrity (normally if it were a guest, his or her name would be included in the lyrics of the song before they would sing the refrain). Tapp, or whoever it was, would often stand with their back to the viewer while Campbell sang the new, humorous verse solo, holding a scythe. At the end of the verse, Campbell would nudge Tapp or the guest with his elbow as a form of slapstick timing, who would then spin around (Tapp would react as if awoken by the elbow) to join him on the chorus:
- "Where, oh where, are you tonight?
- Why did you leave me here all alone?
- I searched the world over, and I thought I'd found true love,
- You met another, and PFFT! You was gone!"
The "PFFT" would be done as a spitting "Bronx cheer", and occasionally, they 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 refrain, with regular George Lindsay often singing the first verse. Occasionally, in the later years, Roni Stoneman (in her role as Ida Lee Nagger) would sometimes do the first verse. In some episodes, which had several major guest stars, the routine appeared several times in the show so that each guest would have the chance to be part of this tradition.
"Hee Haw" magazine (Vol. 1, No. 2, July 1970, A Charlton Publication) attributes this song to Susan Heather (a pseudonym used by Marian B. Yarneall), 1952, 1965 by Mamy Music Corp out of Paoli, Pa. Later references show copyrights held by Gaylord Program Services, Inc. out of Nashville, TN, but this may be because Gaylord holds the copyrights for "Hee Haw." It appears that this song Phfft! you were gone, with lyrics and arrangement by Ms. Heather, was originally composed as a Gospel tune. Bob Newman sang this song on his "The Kentucky Colonel" album in 1959. Mr. Newman is listed as a comedian, so it is probable that this version was the first parody of the original Gospel song. Later artists performing comical versions of this song included Archie Campbell on his Have A Laugh On Me album in 1966, and Buck Owens on his album Too Old To Cut The Mustard in 1972.
KORN news : A newsbreak-esque skit in which Charlie Fahrquarson (Don Harron) would deliver the somewhat local news in his own inimitable way. KORN would become in the later years of the show, KORV. Harron would later resurrect the character on The Red Green Show.
Lulu's Truck Stop : Lulu Roman owned this greasy spoon, where the food was usually pretty bad; Gailard Sartain was also in this skit 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 skit, 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 undoubtedly 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.
The Haystack : A male cast member and a woman (usually one of the Hee Haw Honeys ) talk about love issues while sitting at the haystack (the skits began with the top of the haystack which lowered down to reveal the couple).
Colonel Daddy's daughter : Marianne Gordon was the pampered southern belle daughter of her Colonel Daddy (Gordie Tapp). She would sit on the swing at her plantation home, and would speak about the generosity of her Daddy. In later installments Tapp's character would hardly be seen at all but was always referenced to by his spoiled daughter.
The Moonshiners : Shown most frequently, were one or two of the male cast (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 shows), with scantily dressed girls in the background.
School Scenes : There were always school scenes during the show's 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 joined the cast, they had a larger classroom scene with, at first, real children as the students, but would later return to the cast members playing children, with Minnie still as the teacher.
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, of course.
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 guest star sitting between Buck and Roy) 'dueling' by playing guitar and banjo to the tune of "Cripple Creek", telling jokes and reciting one-liners. The sketch always ended with Roy's banjo solo, each time ending a different comical way. At first it was just Roy and Buck, and later on the entire cast joined in. By the time the entire cast joined in, the sketch was introduced by Cathy Baker.
Samples Sales : Used car salesman role for Junior Samples, with Misty Rowe as his later assistant, in his guise as a magician called Junior the Great, would try to palm off a major 'clunker' and then hold up a sign to remind viewers that his phone number was "BR-549". It was changed to "BR-1Z1Z", in the show's later seasons. (At that time, local phone calls in virtually all of the US 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 tapes were later sold using the "800" number 1-800-BR54949; also, the country music group BR5-49 adopted the number as the name of their band.)
"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:
- "Gloom, despair and agony on me-e!
- Deep dark depression, excessive misery-y!
- If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all!
- Gloom, despair and agony on me-e-e!"
Each of the quartet would sing one line of the verse- a different one for each performance. (In later seasons the female cast got their own version of the song, first just lip-synching the male vocals, but later getting their own feminized version complete with female howls of mourning.)
The Gossip Girls : Musical pieces featuring various female members of the cast surrounding a washtub and clothes wringer singing:
- "Now, we're not ones to go 'round spreadin' rumors,
- Why, really we're just not the gossipy kind,
- No, you'll never hear one of us repeating gossip,
- So you'd better be sure and listen close the first time!"
The song featured a new verse every episode. Misty Rowe, a mainstay 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, the guys, in drag, would sometimes replace the girls in the skit, in retaliation for the girls singing "Gloom, Despair...".
(In earlier seasons, the "Gossip Girls" and "Gloom, Despair.." sketches would both end with a repeat of the song's chorus, but in later years that practice was eliminated.)
"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 Fence : Two or three times during each show a cast member, standing in front of a high wooden fence, would tell a one liner joke. (Example: "I crossed an elephant with a gopher." Everybody 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 : Scenes with Archie Campbell, regular customer Roy Clark, and two or three other regulars sitting in the "waiting chairs" (on lesser occasions Junior Samples would be the one going into the barber's chair). Campbell would share comic dialog with Clark (Campbell's legendary "That's Good, That's Bad" routine immediately comes to mind) or tell one of his "backwards fairy tales" such as "Rindercella".
Doc Campbell : This long-running skit 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 skit is also remembered for cast-member Gunilla Hutton's role as the doctor's assistant, Nurse Good-Body. Sometimes the skits would feature only the doctor and his nurse...with Archie hollering "Nurse Goodbody! Nurse Goodbody! Get in HERE!" to which she'd come into the scene looking nervous.
Justus O'Peace : This recurring skit 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 most silly misdemeanor "crimes". Years later Archie's son, Phil Campbell, as well as Gordie Tapp appeared in a recurring skit about two police officers..the skit's name escapes me at the moment. They also did a courtroom skit with Dub Taylor as the judge and Gailord Sartain playing his "Cletus Biggs" character (see Biggs, Shy, & Stir).
Professor Campbell : This recurring segment 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 operating a general merchandise store. It was also a place where one of the cast would tell a comedic story. In later years the focus shifted from Kornfield Kounty residents stopping by to the comedic banter of Gordie and Gailord Sartain, who played the role of the incompetent Maynard, who often would send Gordie into fits of anger or agony by the skit's end.
Misty's Bedtime Stories : This skit featured bedtime stories delivered by Misty Rowe, one of the more popular cast-members. Grandpa Jones would be heard off-camera whispering "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 delivering one of her bizarre stories, sometimes a re-written nursery rhyme, she'd giggle, wink to the camera, and blow out the candle...end of skit.
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.
Goober's Garage : George Lindsay was the star of this regular skit where he'd play his Andy Griffith role, often talking about cars and jalopies with whichever cast member that appeared in the skit that week. Sometimes non cast-member Jack Burns would appear in the skit as the city slicker/con-artist type trying to pull a fast one with Goober emerging more intelligent. For a period of time in the early 1980s cast-member Chase Randolph was in the skit and played a mechanic often being flirted with by a gang of women. The joke is that Chase was more interested in fixing up cars while Goober often offered to go out with the girls instead...only for the women to ignore his requests and look disgusted.
"Hee-Haw's All-Jug Band" : A musical segment, featuring most of the female cast members, singing a comical song, in which the punch line differed each week. Regular, Lulu Roman, "played" moonshine jugs (by which, she would blow air over the spout, creating a "humming sound"), which partially explains the segment's title (as well as the fact that "jugs" is a dysphemism for breasts). Minnie Pearl introduced the segment 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) and recites a dinner menu in poetic verse. Often, he would describe a delicious, country-style meal (e.g., chicken and biscuits smothered in rich gravy, and collard greens), and the audience would reply approvingly, "yum-m yum-m!"; although 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 the only time he ever got booed during this routine.
Jerry Ralph RV Bob Beavis : This is a skit that appeared mostly in the 1980s and it featured Gailord Sartain as the owner of a small store/flea market attempting to sell junk. The skit 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 in every skit just as he was preparing to pull out a guitar and start to sing, the camera would zoom out and the door swing shut.
Biggs, Shy, & Stir : This featured Gailord 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 closed 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, he was not replaced, and the 'scarecrow' simply was seen in the field as a memorial. On occasion, personalities from TV stations that carried Hee Haw would appear in this segment with Owens or Clark.
The Naggers : Routines with 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 nagging mother.
Kornfield Kounty Operator Service : 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 the Operator to often say, innocently, "And they wonder why we telephone operators turn gray!"
Grinder's Switch Gazzette : This skit featured Minnie Pearl as a newspaper worker who often insisted that her mute secretary, Miss Honeydew, take down an "important" news item which was always nonsense.
About 200 Years Ago : This skit which ran during 1975-76 (to coincide with the Bicentennial Year 1976) was a parody of CBS' "Bicentennial Minutes"; in it, Grandpa Jones would deliver a fractured historical "fact" about the Revolutionary era.
Hee Haw Honky Tonk : When the Urban Cowboy craze was in full swing, Hee Haw had its honky tonk, where all the cast would throw out their one liners. The Honky Tonk was replete with its mechanical bull; and often showed Ida Lee Nagger (Roni Stoneman) chasing men with a net. This was patterned after the Party on Laugh-In.
Kurl Up and Dye : This is a skit from its later years which featured several of the cast-members in a beauty parlor where they'd gossip..from time to time Gailord Sartain would appear in drag as one of the fussy women.
Fit as a Fiddle : This skit ran in the 1980s to coincide with the aerobic dancing craze of that period. The skit featured several of the female cast members delivering one-liner jokes while aerobic dancing.
Slim Picken's Bar-B-Q : Slim 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 Hee-Haw cast were seen piled on a truck driving down the road to Slim's Bar-B-Q whose guests often complained about the food to which Slim 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 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; a pack of dogs that would chase an extremely bad joke teller; three sultry pigs that twirled their necklaces; a square dancing female pig and a male donkey; a pair of chickens dancing, with one of them falling flat on its face; the ubiquitous Hee Haw Donkey, who would say "Wouldn't that dunk your hat in the creek?" among other quips; 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 among others. 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!"; 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!"; 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 skits (mostly the PFFT! You Was Gone skit); however, this did not occur until later seasons.
While the meat of the segments were comedy-based, there were several serious, music-based segments, including:
The Million Dollar Band : This was a jam-session segment, airing from 1980 through 1988, composed of legendary Nashville musicians Chet Atkins, Boots Randolph, Roy Clark, Floyd Cramer, Charlie McCoy, Danny Davis, Jethro Burns, and Johnny Gimble.
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. Ray Burdette sang bass after the death of Kenny Price, but the quartet was not featured as often then. However, the show usually closed with a gospel song—if not by the Quartet, then by the entire cast.
At the end of the show...hosts Clark and Owens, backed by the entire cast, sang the song:
- "We loved the time we spent with you,
- To share a song and a laugh or two,
- May your pleasures be many, your troubles be few..."
And ended with Owens and Clark saying:
- "So long everybody! We'll see you next week on...HEE-HAW!! " (The closing song would be replaced in the early 1980s)
The closing song was changed to this:
- "So long, we sure had a good time! So long, gee, the company was fine! Singin' and a dancin', Laughin' and a prancin', Adios, farewell, goodbye, good luck, so long...HEE-HAW!! "
And after the closing credits, cast member Cathy Baker would utter her trademark sign-off line, "THAT'S all!" (preceded from the mid-1980s to 1992 by "This has been a Gaylord Production from Opryland Studios!"
The show's additional legacy—probably its main one to most of the Southern and rural viewers in particular—was the hundreds of performances of country music, bluegrass, gospel music, and other traditional styles, that were featured on it during its run. During the 1970s and early 1980s, this show was probably the best-known showcase for popular country music on commercial television, aside from other half-hour performer-hosted syndicated shows (most notably The Porter Wagoner Show, which is perhaps the only other weekly country music show of this era to approach Hee Haw's longevity.) produced by packagers like Nashville's Show Biz, Inc.
Hee Haw featured at least two, and sometimes three or four, guest artists and performers each week. While most artists were from the country genre, a wide range of artists were featured. Such artists included, among others: Alabama, Atlanta, Roy Acuff, Lynn Anderson, Eddy Arnold, Chet Atkins, Hoyt Axton, Razzy Bailey, Johnny Bench, Byron Berline, Suzy Bogguss, Randy Boone, Ernest Borgnine, Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn, Bellamy Brothers, The Buckaroos, Ruth Buzzi, Robert Byrd, Glen Campbell, June Carter, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Jessi Colter, David L Cook, Helen Cornelius, Sammy Davis, Jr., Vic Damone, Dizzy Dean, Dillard & Clark, Minnesota Fats, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Janie Fricke, Crystal Gayle, Don Gibson, Vince Gill, Lee Greenwood, Merle Haggard, Phil Harris, Doyle Holly, Alan Jackson, Wanda Jackson, Jana Jae, Sonny James, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Naomi Judd, Wynonna Judd, The Kendalls, Hal Ketchum, Alan King, Brenda Lee, Jerry Lee Lewis, Lyle Lovett, Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell, Louise Mandrell, Mickey Mantle, Mel McDaniel, Reba McEntire, Ed McMahon, Ethel Merman, Jody Miller, Roger Miller, Gary Morris, Willie Nelson, Leslie Nielsen, Patti Page, Dolly Parton, Ray Price, Charley Pride, Charlie Rich, Riders in the Sky, Eddie Rabbitt, Boots Randolph, Susan Raye, Jerry Reed, Oral Roberts, Linda Ronstadt, Kenny Rogers, Roy Rogers, Willard Scott, Doc Severinson, Jean Shepard, The Statler Brothers, Ray Stevens, George Strait, Sweethearts of the Rodeo, The Inspirations, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, B.J. Thomas, Mel Tillis, Pam Tillis, Randy Travis, Buck Trent, Travis Tritt, Ernest Tubb, Conway Twitty, Dottie West, Boxcar Willie, Don Williams, Hank Williams Jr., Sheb Wooley, Tammy Wynette, Faron Young, Henny Youngman, along with several forgotten performers who were never in the music business long enough to succeed. 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.
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 and Misty Rowe--would occasionally perform a song on the show; and the show would almost always open with a song performed by the entire cast.
Elvis Presley was a fan of Hee Haw and wanted to appear as a guest on the program in the 1970s, but his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, would not allow him to do so. A similar situation occurred when Elvis' friend Johnny Cash asked Presley to appear on his show.
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 1990-1992, country superstar Garth Brooks appeared on the show four times. In 1992, producer Sam Lovullo tried unsuccessfully to get a hold of Brooks because he wanted him for the final show. Brooks surprised Lovullo by showing up last minute, ready to don his overalls and perform for the final episode.
Hee Haw had a short-lived spin-off series, Hee Haw Honeys, for the 1978-79 television season. 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 (undoubtedly inspired by the Lulu's Truck Stop skit on Hee Haw). Guests on the series included several country music legends such as Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty and the Oak Ridge Boys, among others, who would perform a couple of their hits of the day, sometimes asking the cast to join them.
Hee Haw continues to remain beloved and popular with its long-time fans and those who've discovered the program through DVD releases and its reruns on RFD-TV. In spite of the loving support of the series by its fans, the program had never been a favorite of television critics or members of the more high brow society. This particular fact was reinforced when TV Guide ranked the series number 10 on its 50 Worst Shows of All Time List in 2002...a full 10 years after the last first-run episode aired in May 1992.