‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Buddy Ebsen Decided to Join Show Because of One Person

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Can you imagine The Beverly Hillbillies without Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett?

All we know is Jed made us happier than an itchy pig rubbing against a rail fence. And without Ebsen spinning those Jedisms, the show wouldn’t have been the same.

The Beverly Hillbillies ran from 1962 to 71. The series was a top 20 show in eight of its nine seasons and topped the ratings for two of those years. In its first three seasons, the show averaged 57 million viewers an episode. But Ebsen often admitted he didn’t much like the show.

He agreed to be on the show and stayed on it because of one person. That was Paul Henning, who created the series.

In an interview with the Akron Beacon-Journal in 1964, Ebsen called Henning “the star of the show.”

“I put myself in his hands because I have faith in him,” Ebsen said. “I’ll stay with the show as long as Paul has faith in me. I wasn’t surprised the show was a success. I think our kind of humor was a pleasant switch from the medical dramas that dominated television just before we went on the air.

“However, I was surprised we were so successful. You know, our ratings this season are even better than they were last year.”

Paul Henning Based Beverly Hillbillies On People He Met On Boy Scouts Camping Trip

Henning grew up on a farm in Missouri. And he relied on that experience when creating The Beverly Hillbillies and writing 200 of its episodes. He said he based the show’s premise on the experiences he had while on Boy Scout camping trips in the Ozarks.

The premise of the show is classic fish out of water. An errant shot from Jed Clampett’s rifle uncorks an oil field of the finest black gold. The family strikes it rich and moves to Beverly Hills to live in a mansion complete with a cement pond and a fancy eatin’ room.

Henning created rural comedies Americans loved. Besides The Beverly Hillbillies, Henning was responsible for Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. Those two shows were located in Hooterville and shared some of the same cast. Green Acres featured a well-known lawyer, his beautiful wife and a pig named Arnold who was treated like a human. Petticoat Junction was inspired by the stories told by Henning’s wife. Her grandparents owned a small hotel in Missouri.

In that same interview with the Akron newspaper, Ebsen told the reporter what he’d rather be doing than playing Jed Clampett.

“If I had my way, I’d spend all my time working in the theater,” Ebsen said. “My second choice would be to spend six months in the theater, six months making movies, but there’s not enough work in the theater or movies to support all the performers.

“Oh, I could have had enough work in movies to make a good living. but television has given me the opportunity to make a better living. I have a home about 35 miles from Los Angeles and a big boat to go with it. Television didn’t get them for me, but it will sure help me keep them.”

Ebsen stuck with Beverly Hillbillies until the end of the series.

And weeee-doggy, we’re happier than a butcher’s dog that he did.

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