From 1969 until 1997, an odd little show graced our television screens. That show was Hee Haw, a sketch comedy hour inspired by Laugh-In. The show was hosted by Buck Owens and Roy Clark and helped make millions of Americans happy for a very long time. When the show went off the air, its legions of fans were left devastated. Luckily, it found a way to live with DVDs and online streaming. Today, all 655 episodes of Hee Haw are readily available for you to relive. But before you press play, take a gander at these here facts about one of your favorite shows.
You’ll never guess which President was a big fan!
The Show Was Created By Canadiens
You would never suspect a show set in the rural south would be created by two upscale writers from Canada, but that’s exactly what happened with Hee Haw. John Aylesworth and Frank Peppiatt both grew up in Canada and had never even visited the south when they created the show in 1969.
After looking at the ratings for The Beverly Hillbillies and Laugh-In, the writing duo decided to join the trend and create a show based on this thought: “We wondered what kind of show would combine both elements.”
It Was Canceled Despite Being A Huge Hit
Hee Haw aired its first two seasons on CBS and was a massive ratings hit. Despite this, the network made a choice to get rid of any show airing like it. Because of this decision, Beverly Hillbillies and Mayberry R.F.D. were canceled along with it.
Knowing the show was wildly popular, Aylesworth and Peppiatt worked quickly to find a new home for it. They cut a deal to syndicate the show, and it became more popular than it had been on CBS, airing its last show in 1997.
Speaking of it’s final episode…
Ratings Were Huge For The Hee Haw Finale
When Hee Haw finally went off the air in 1997, the final episode pulled in 3.5 million viewers in over 140 syndicated markets. That huge number would make most cable shows drool today. Networks like AMC and FX are happy when their shows crack one million viewers!
Of course, that 3.5 million wasn’t huge at the time. Network shows still needed to haul in 10 million or more viewers to be considered a success. Nowadays, a show like The Good Place stays in good standing with a little over two million viewers weekly.
Roy Clark Hosted A Different Show With Buck Owens First
Before Hee Haw ever aired a single episode, hosts Roy Clark and Buck Owen were already a proven hosting tandem. The pair worked together on the Swingin’ Country variety show in the mid-’60s before being approached to host another show together.
Sadly, Roy Clark passed away in 2018. He was 85 years old and became ill with pneumonia. His reputation as a variety show host and country music superstar who believed “that everything had to be a belly laugh” will help his legacy live on for years to come.
The Best Moments Never Aired
Some of the funniest things that happened while filming Hee Haw never made it to air. In one incident Archie Campbell’s toupee fell off. The audience had no idea he wore one and were absolutely shocked and stunned. The moment, unplanned, was left on the cutting room floor.
The same thing happened with comedian Junior Samples. Famous for his slow talking delivery style, he was caught snoring on stage after falling asleep by some lucky cameramen. The moment stayed locked behind closed doors. Both incidences have been confirmed by the Associated Press.
In two slides find out what President loved Hee Haw!
It Gave Country Music Fans A Home
Before CMT and MTV existed, there weren’t many options for fans of country music to get their fix. When MTV came around in the ’80s, it didn’t play a lot of these tunes either. Hee Haw ended being the only place country fans could hear their favorite songs.
One of the reasons Hee Haw is still so popular today is how much country music is on it that you wouldn’t be able to hear otherwise. The live performances by the country’s best stars even out shined the juvenile sketches most of the time.
One President Was A Big Fan
In 1988, President George H.W. Bush admitted to being a big fan of the show. The comment came during an interview with Maureen Dowd of The New York Times. Asked what TV shows he watched, Bush said, “I’d tell you Hee Haw but you wouldn’t believe it, and it’s not on anymore anyway.”
If Bush had checked his TV Guide, he would have been surprised to see the program was still on the air and going strong. We guess he was too busy with other, more important things.
Hee Haw Filmed Twice A Year
Because there were so many scheduling conflicts with guests because of upcoming tours and shoots, Hee Haw was forced to film only twice a year. The cast and crew taped everything in a short amount of time, with several major acts on standby.
If you don’t remember, the first few episodes included high profile acts Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, and Charley Pride. Just imagine all those huge stars being forced to wait backstage together for their moment to film a sketch or perform their song.
Up next, learn how Hee Haw influenced one of Roy Clark’s biggest hits!
Roy Clark Wrote A Song About Being Canceled
When Hee Haw was canceled, it was part of what is now called the “rural purge.” CBS gave the ax to several similar shows to change its image. One of the shows that found a new home along with Hee Haw was The Lawrence Welk Show.
Because both shows came back from the dead, Roy Clark celebrated by writing the song “The Lawrence Welk-Hee Haw Counter-Revolution Polka.” The song title might be a mouthful, but it proved incredibly popular, peaking in the top ten of Billboard’s country music chart.
Elvis Wanted To Be A Guest
George H.W. Bush wasn’t the only influential person who openly loved Hee Haw. Elvis Presley was also a big fan of the show. He loved it so much he reportedly was desperate to be a guest star.
That dream sadly never became a reality, although Presley was romantically linked to two Hee Haw Honeys! Hee Haw did find a way to pay tribute to the king after his death. Roy Clark had Presley’s father come on to fulfill his son’s lost dream.
A Spin-Off Was Short Lived
Hee Haw proved to be so popular that producers wanted more and commissioned a spin-off series called Hee Haw Honeys. The show debuted in 1978 and starred Misty Rowe, Lulu Roman, and others playing a family who owned a truck stop.
In 1979, the show was canceled and never found a second home. When TV Guide ranked the worst shows of all time, Hee Haw Honeys placed 10th. There’s a reason we don’t hear much about the maligned program today.
Coming up, find out which famous celebrity got their start on Hee Haw Honeys!
Kathie Lee Gifford Got Her Start On Hee Haw Honeys
For the most part, Hee Haw Honeys was a complete failure. The show took a popular aspect of Hee Haw and tried to create something new and familiar at the same time. It might not have worked, but it did provide the world a first look at Kathie Lee Gifford.
Gifford became a household name in 1988 when Live! With Regis And Kathie Lee debuted. She hosted the show for 12 years before moving onto new projects in 2000. Since 2008 she has been a co-host on Today with Hoda Kotb.
It Inspired A Broadway Musical
Moonshine: That Hee Haw Musical debuted in Dallas in 2015. The show featured Broadway performers, including American Idol runner-up Justin Guarini. It’s set in modern day Kornfield Kounty and is described as a musical comedy. Producers hope the show will eventually move from Dallas to New York.
Variety was able to see a pre-Broadway version of the musical and wasn’t very impressed, “This hyperactive hodgepodge is more likely to do most of its crown pleasing far from the Great White Way.” Never forget, critics hated Hee Haw when it came out too!
Buck Owens Did The Show For Selfish Reasons
Hosting Hee Haw with Roy Clark was a very lucrative gig for Buck Owens. The money, it turns out, was too good to pass up! Owens hated the show, but enjoyed only having to work on it twice a year.
In his biography he wrote, “I couldn’t justify turning down that big paycheck for just a few weeks work twice a year. So, I kept [selling my soul] to that cartoon donkey.” Hey, it’s not the worst thing anyone has ever done for money!
There Was A Hee Haw Comic Book
In the 1970s, anything that was kind of kid-friendly got the comic book treatment. Hee Haw was no different. The show was a huge hit, and a comic tie-in was an easy way to cash in. Carlton Comics Group published the short-lived series.
The Hee Haw comics ran for one year and published seven issues. These comics are not considered collector’s items. They are worth checking out if you were a fan of the show and want to see a different take on them.
Roy Clark Stayed With The Show To The End
Hee Haw has always been a two-host show. For more than a decade, the hosts were Roy Clark and Buck Owens. Owens didn’t stay with the show. It’s no secret he hated working on it but refused to leave because it was an easy paycheck.
By 1986, Owens could no longer sell his soul to the donkey and left, Leaving Roy Clark to his own machinations. Clark became the face of the show for the next decade, co-hosting with a slew of guest stars, but never finding a new running mate.
The Show Tried To Go Modern In Later Seasons
In the early ’90s, Hee Haw tried to maintain its cultural relevance by going modern. The citizens of Kornfield Kounty no longer performed in front of barnyards. The modern update placed them at bus stops and parking gazebos. It was weird and strange.
It was also a failure. The makeover backfired and the show came to an end after its 25th season. A brief resurgence occurred with Hee Haw Silver, a clip show of old episodes hosted by Roy Clark until 1997.
Hugh Hefner Made A Guest Appearance
Hugh Hefner was riding high with success when he made a guest appearance on Hee Haw in 1974. Bobbi Benton was his girlfriend at the time and also had worked on the show as a honey. It might seem odd to see Hefner in Kornfield Kounty, but we promise it’s not fake.
The episode put Hefner alongside Lester Flatt and Buddy Allen. Flatt sang two songs for his appearance; “Salty Dog Blues” and “Bluebirds Singing for Me.” Hefner kept his cameo brief, although the episode is still remembered today for his participation.
Roger Miller Almost Refused To Be Featured
When Roger Miller first saw Hee Haw he hated it. He thought the show was too silly and did a disservice to country musicians and fans. Sheb Wooley, his mentor, made it his mission to convince Miller to do the show.
Eventually, Wooley wore Miller down, and he made his first appearance in 1971. Over a decade later, Miller even helped co-host the show. He worked with Roy Clark from 1985 until 1989 and appeared with him six times. So much for hating the show!
One Producer Claims The Show Aired The First Music Videos
Sam Lovullo was a producer on Hee Haw when it debuted and believes part of the show’s enduring legacy should be the introduction of the music video. Before the show, most videos were just taped versions of live performances. With Hee Haw,Lovullo wanted to do something different.
He made the music apart of the story of the show, saying, “It provided picture stories for songs.” Not every performer was excited about this concept. As more and more performers rejected Lovullo’s idea, he axed it from the show.