53 Years Ago: ‘Hee Haw’ Makes Prime-Time Debut on CBS
Fifty-three years ago, on June 15, 1969, the TV show Hee Haw made its prime-time debut on CBS. Inspired by Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Hee Haw focused on rural life and country music. Set in the fictitious Kornfield Kounty, the comedy and variety show was taped in Nashville, first downtown and then at the Opryland USA theme park.
Hee Haw's cast included the Hee Haw Honeys, a group of attractive, somewhat scantily clad women, and several series regulars, such as Irene Mandrell, Minnie Pearl, George Lindsey, LuLu Roman and Lindsey Thompson, among others. Roy Clark and Buck Owens hosted the show, which featured numerous recurring skits and sketches, with guest artists often appearing in them along with the cast members.
Hee Haw also included musical performances, which were the only parts of the show that were taped live. The musical segments were done by both guest artists and regular cast members, typically including one song at the beginning of the show from the entire cast.
Hee Haw aired on CBS from 1969 to 1971, followed by 20 years in local syndication. Although the show was a huge success, not all of the show's stars were thrilled with the program. Owens revealed in his autobiography, Buck ‘Em! The Autobiography of Buck Owens, that he remained on Hee Haw purely for the money.
“I couldn’t justify turning down that big paycheck for just a few weeks' work twice a year,” he says in the book. “So, I kept whoring myself out to that cartoon donkey.”
A Hee Haw musical, with songs written by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally, premiered in the fall of 2015.
This story was originally written by Gayle Thompson, and revised by Annie Zaleski.