‘Hee Haw’ Officially Ended on This Day 30 Years Ago

by Suzanne Halliburton

Outsiders, you probably miss those Hee Haw moments, like when hosts Buck Owens and Roy Clark would start the happiest of hours with “pickin’ and a grinnin’.”

The variety show, which was country music’s answer to Laugh-In, left the airwaves 30 years ago today. Hee Haw endured for 24 years, starting off as a summer series on CBS in 1969. It left the network air two years later and began its syndicated run, which lasted another 22 years. For context, Hee Haw and all its country campiness, stayed popular through six U.S. presidents. Richard Nixon was in office when it premiered and Bill Clinton was president when the show presented its final episode from Kornfield Kounty. And it truly is a classic TV staple.

How could not love this show? Grab you a pair of overalls and let’s enjoy some Hee Haw details. First, here’s the iconic opening to the show:


CBS Followed the Rural Trend with Hee Haw

Two Canadians writers actually came up with the Hee Haw concept. The 1960s showed us that the nation liked its rural comedies. The Beverly Hillbillies zoomed to No. 1 in its first season. Folks fell in love with The Andy Griffith Show, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction were a delight to watch. Yes, the humor was cheesy. But it was pure and authentic.

Variety shows also were popular with the viewers. Laugh-In premiered in 1968, introducing the country to the humor of Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. CBS could figure it could work well. Switch from Los Angeles to Nashville. Use country musicians. Tell cornpone jokes. And everybody laughs.

Owen and Clark hosted the show for most of its run. And the shows were fairly easy to do. The cast got together twice a year for a week at a time and recorded a series of skits. The show used a laugh track for the skits. Meanwhile, the country musicians performed in front of a live audience.

There were several country-specific comedians on the show. How-dee! — Minnie Pearl was there with the price tag still hanging off her hat. Grand Pa Jones told his jokes. And Archie Samples, aka Junior, would pop up from a cornfield with his BR549 sign. He was a sixth-grade dropout from Georgia. And Samples paid the bills by working as a carpenter. But he found fame at age 40 when he told a fish joke on the radio. Hee Haw made him a household name as the worst used car salesman around.

Here are some of his Hee Haw highlights:

You’ll Get Ear Worms from Some Show Songs

Another favorite tradition was the rendition of “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me.” You know the words: “Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, and agony on me.”

Then there was the “Pfft You Was Gone” duet. Archie Campbell usually would start it. Then he’d tap his partner, who would finally turn around and reveal his/her identity for the second verse. Campbell’s partners ranged from the likes of country icon Johnny Cash to baseball legend Johnny Bench. The two singers typically would break character before the song was over. They’d definitely start cackling by the Pfft.

Check out this rendition from George Lindsey (Goober on The Andy Griffith Show) and a very young Garth Brooks.