Hee Haw is an onomatopoeia that can easily conjure up images of life in the rural parts and old western movies. It is, therefore, fitting that a TV show of the same name would become embedded in the psyche of American society for the better part of over two decades, and still remain a beloved staple to this day for its portrayals of the ‘simple life.’
In case it doesn’t ring a bell, “Hee Haw” is a long-running variety show that garnered mainstream viewership during the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s. Why is it important to talk about? Well, the show helped to spread acceptance of the country music genre, exposing many of its practitioners into the homes of city dwellers and country folk alike, who could identify with the lifestyle that was portrayed.
One of its main features was the eccentric cast, including co-hosts Buck Owens, Roy Clark, and Lisa Todd, who was one of several original cast members. Other familiar names appearing on the show included Minnie Pearl, George Lindsey, Cathy Baker, and Don Harron.
The show was filmed in Nashville for most of its two-plus decade run and had a fictitious location called Kornfield Kounty. In addition to the music and laughter, Hee Haw was also known for its characteristically quite rustic dialogue, a feature of the show which constantly drew criticism from detractors, apparently because it was too ‘corny.’
Created in 1969, Hee Haw was actually the brainchild of two Canadians, Frank Peppiatt and John Aylesworth. Along with producer, Sam Lovullo (who died earlier this year), the duo wrote the format of the show, which ran initially for two years before being cut by CBS in 1971. By then, its creators had seen the light and decided to continue running it as a syndicated program. What followed were 21 more years of entertaining millions of American families, steadily dishing out a healthy dose of laughter and the best of country music.
If anything, the show’s popularity maybe even helped to influence some of today’s country stars to start their careers. The main hosts, Buck Owens and Roy Clark, were already well known in the country music circles. They were joined over the years by other well-known country acts and performers, including Johnny Cash and Loretta Lyn. Even Garth Brooks made an appearance on the show and other country singers make references to it all the time, including Blake Shelton during a Saturday Night Live appearance in 2015. That same year, a stage version of “Hee Haw” was launched in Texas. All this shows just how influential “Hee Haw” became during its stint.
Although the party finally came to an end after viewership waned in 1991, “Hee Haw” has still lived on in the hearts of many through its reruns. Up to 48 million people reportedly still watch episodes of the show on RFD-TV, which has been playing the reruns since 2008. There are not many blasts from the past that can command such an audience, considering that the show stopped airing over 25 years ago.
Furthermore, the show’s endurance is not only an achievement for “Hee Haw” but also for country music, which is among the top genres.