Kornfield Kounty or Whatever Happened to Hee Haw?
Kornfield Kounty better known as Hee Haw to television viewers, ran for 25 years, and is still running today on the RFD television channel. Hee Haw got started by CBS in 1969, in charge of production was two drunks and an out of work accountant (sounds familiar) The story was that the Jonathan Winters and Glen Campells shows had just been cancelled leaving Sam Lovullo, John Ayelsworth and Frank Peppiatt out of work.
Sam Lovullo (the accountant) was called to the office of Perry Lafferty at CBS and told that they had decided to go ahead with a new one hour special called Hee Haw based on a concept by the two drunk guys John Aylesworth and Frank Peppiatt.(drowning their sorrows in a few drinks after the show cancellation) Both John and Frank are Canadians, Sam Lovullo is an Italian New Yorker, these guys were to produce the new show under Yongestreet Productions (named after a famous Canadian boulevard)with the hope that the show would increase the viewing audience to include the Bible Belt. All the taping was done at the CBS studios in Nashville WLACTV Channel 5 and the editing was done in Los Angeles.
The first show had an Air date of 6/15/69 it included Loretta Lynn, CharliePride and the Hager twins. The show was so successful the network ordered another twelve shows, Roy Clark and Buck Owens became permanent co-hosts of the weekly show. What created the success was not just the music or format of the show but all the negative articles by critics, this had people tuning in just to see how bad the show really was, what they saw they liked.
The show was taped in bits and pieces, they did the comic skits for the season.Then the did the pikin & grinin segment tapes the whole season and on to the, and on to the guest artists and so on. They taped enough in five and a half weeks to cover a seasons thirteen shows, taping took place in June and October, this gave them twenty six shows in all.
The June shows would air in the fall and in January of the following year the October shows would air. Once all shows had run then they would do reruns until the next fall season began. The taping of the show moved to the Opryland complex in 1980 and a year later Youngstreet Productions sold Hee Haw to the Gaylord family of Oklahoma City who in 1983 purchased the Opryland complex from American General Insurance Company. The taping of the shows never missed a beat until the last show aired on May thirtieth 1992 for a total of 585 shows. Over the 25 years a total of over 414 persons worked with the show from the creators to stage hands not including the regular cast.
The regular cast of Hee Haw consisted of:
Minnie Pearl. (Sarah Ophellia Cannon) Comedienne/Piano player, Died 3/4/96. Minnie was the school teacher in the show, also played honky tonk piano in the shows Jug Band.
Archie Campbell. Writer/Comedian played the doctor and sang the Pfft song. He died of heart failure in June 1987.
Junior Samples. From Cumming GA Played used car sales guy in Kornfield skits, Prior to Hee Haw he used to own his own still in North Georgia. He gained popularity with an untrue fish story circulating on the radio when Chet Atkins heard it and invited him to Nashville. Junior also was a stock car racing driver. Samples passed away at the age of 57 on November 13 1983.
Grandpa Jones. He was an accomplished performer prior to appearing on Hee Haw. He had played the part of Grandpa since the age of twenty-six, off the show he is a very educated man who reads a great deal, and is well versed in many subjects. “hey Grandpa what’s for supper” Louis Marshall Jones passed away at the age of 84 February 19 1998. I had the pleasure of meeting him when in Nashville in 1996.
Gordie Tapp. Writer/Performer he was the Kornfield Kounty general-store keeper. He was great at doing standup comedy and could also sing quite well. His other roles in Hee Haw were as Samuel B Sternwheeler, Cousin Clem andLaverne Nagger. He recorded the song “Nobody’s singing them Cowboy songs no more” that reached #10 in Canada. He is also the commercial spokesperson for Ultramatic adjustable bed. Gordie is 84
Don Harron. A comedian, actor, journalist, author and composer. He played the part of Charlie Fargonson (he created) as the reporter in the KORN newsroom. He wrote his own material for the show as did Archie for the barbershop and Gordie for the general store. You may remember Don was in the Chicken coop dressed in an old sweater and cap. Don is now 85 years young.
Stringbean His real name was David Akeman was a six-foot five-inch gentleman who played the banjo and read letters from home on the show as well as being the scarecrow in the kornfield. Stringbean and his wife Estelle were murdered at their home during a robbery November Tenth 1973.
Don Rich (the Buckaroos) Don was the groups leader of the house band for Hee Haw, they accompanied all of the musical guests on the show. Don was also a great fiddle player, also Buck Owens indispensable singing partner until he died in a motor cycle accident in 1971.
Lulu Roman A former go-go dancer and funny lady appeared on Hee Haw when in 1971 she was released from the show because of personal problems. She later returned to the show and was a regular until the end. Lulu is a great gospel singer and is presently part of the Christian circuit traveling around the country trying to help others to avoid making some of the same mistakes she made.
Hager Twins Discovered by Buck Owens they were orphans adopted by a Chicago couple. They joined the show in midseason, 1969-1970 they sang in the style of the Everly Brothers, Jim played the guitar and sang lead, Jon did the harmonies and the tambourine. The Hager Twins recorded several singles, five of which appeared in the country music charts. Jim passed away on May first, 2008 at the age of 66 and Jon passed the following January age 67.
There will be much more to come in Part Two.