Co-creator of television's 'Hee Haw' dies at age 85
BY Wire Reports
Saturday, November 10, 2012
11/10/12 at 7:21 AM
Frank Peppiatt, the co-creator of "Hee Haw," a landmark variety show mixing country music with "corny" humor that became one of television's most unlikely and longest-running hits, died Wednesday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. He was 85.
In addition to co-creating, writing and producing "Hee Haw," the Canadian-born Peppiatt, along with his writing and producing partner John Aylesworth, became one of television's top producers during the 1960s and '70s in the variety show genre, developing programs for several top stars, including Jackie Gleason, Andy Williams and Sonny and Cher.
Among their numerous projects together were "Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall," "The Judy Garland Show," the 1965 special "Frank Sinatra: A Man and his Music," "The ABC Comedy Hour," "The Julie Andrews Hour" and the teen dance show "Hullabaloo."
But their biggest success was "Hee Haw." Developed as a country-flavored version of "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In," the CBS show was originally slated in 1969 as a summer replacement for "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." But it matched "Laugh-In" at the top of the ratings chart its first week, and its popularity continued for the rest of the summer. It was added to the CBS prime time schedule in December.
Co-hosted by Buck Owens and Tulsa native Roy Clark, "Hee Haw" spotlighted top country music stars such as Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Tammy Wynette and George Jones while featuring a cast of offbeat comedic regulars including Minnie Pearl, Alvin "Junior" Samples, Archie Campbell, Lulu Roman and Louis M. "Grandpa" Jones. A regular feature had cast members popping up in a cornfield and telling jokes.
" 'Hee Haw' was a show that the two coasts didn't get at all, but the rest of America embraced it," television historian Tim Brooks said. "There's no denying that kind of success in TV - it certainly struck a chord. It combined corn-pone humor with great music. Huge country stars would appear on that show. And the two hosts were top-notch."
Owens and Clark had a regular segment in which they would trade jokes while Owens would play a guitar and Clark would play his banjo. Said Owens: "I'm-a-pickin'. Replied Clark: "And I'm-a-grinnin.' "
Clark, who is performing in Branson, Mo., called Peppiatt "one of the lifelines of 'Hee Haw.' He had the idea and had the talent to make it work. He had this vision, and he wrote a lot of the jokes." He added, "Even now, if I'm in New York, I can count on someone saying to me, 'I'm-a-pickin', and I'll always say, 'I'm-a-grinnin.' "
Ironically, the creators of the show did not have the cultural credentials to create a variety series based in the country music arena. Peppiatt, who was born in Toronto on March 19, 1927, acknowledged in a 2010 interview that he and his partner, who was also born in Canada, had never been to the South before concocting the series.
Original Tuskegee Airmen member dies at age 95
Retired Lt. Col. Herbert Eugene Carter, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen who broke color barriers in World War II, died Thursday in Tuskegee, Ala. He was 95.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black aviators in the U.S. military. During World War II, they were trained as a segregated unit in central Alabama at the Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University. Carter was in the first group that trained for the 99th Fighter Squadron.
They were prohibited from fighting alongside white counterparts and faced severe prejudice yet became one of World War II's most respected fighter squadrons.
Carter flew 77 missions and crash-landed only once.