Picking. Grinning. Again.
The country-themed comedy and music show “Hee Haw” aired from 1969 to 1993.
Fiddler Jana Jae, who has residences in Tulsa and Grove, is getting some of the gang back together for a Kornfield Friends tour of North America that will begin Saturday, Oct. 13, at Freeland Center for the Performing Arts in Bristow.
Jae will be joined by former “Hee Haw” cast members Misty Rowe, Lulu Roman and Buck Trent on the tour.
The TV series is beloved enough that reruns continue to air on RFD-TV.
“We had that special something going on,” Jae said, praising “Hee Haw” co-hosts Buck Owens and Roy Clark, a longtime Tulsa resident.
“But beyond Buck and Roy, I think it was the totality of the show that had me so mesmerized and amazed. The show worked because it wasn’t about just one star. It was a group of people. Some were stars and some were not. By the time the show was at its peak, everyone was a star because everyone brought something so special to the show. There was not one show that was the same, and that is what made it so fun to make the show each week.”
And, regarding the new venture, Rowe said this: “The great thing about the originals touring in a show is that we finally get to meet the people who watched us for so long. We won’t be around forever, so please come meet us soon!”
Jae said the show will feature moments honoring Clark, who gave his blessing for the tour. “He’s thrilled we are doing it.”
The “Hee Haw” alums answered questions in advance of the tour launch.
Which person on the “Hee Haw” cast was guaranteed to make you laugh, and do you have a story to back it up?
Rowe: “Now without a doubt, Gailard Sartain could always make me laugh. He played my brother Willie Billy on ‘Hee Haw Honeys’ and was always imitating my squeaky voice to talk to food. The first time I sang on the TV series was scary. I think it was a song the producer Sam Lovullo picked out called ‘Gonna Get Along Without You Now.’ After the first take, Bob Boatman, the director, said, ‘Let’s try that again!’ What I didn’t know was they put Gailard behind me with a mop on his head and pink lipstick, smiling and doing backup. Well when Gailard imitated my giggle, I turned around, grabbed that mophead and chased him around the set to everybody laughing and clapping. Just like a brother, he was.” (Editor’s note: Sartain lives in Tulsa.)
Roman: “Roy Clark. The way he rolled his eyes and blow kisses at the hotel clerk kept us in stitches.”
Trent: “Gailard Sartain. He was always cracking jokes or making funny noises while we were at commercial breaks. When the commercial ended, we would all be laughing because of him. When the governor of Tennessee was doing a spot in the cornfield, Gailard pulled the plug on the lights, putting the set in the dark. No one knew it was him. Very funny guy.”
Jae: “For the cast takes like pickin’ and grinnin,’ Gailard Sartain used to make faces and strange noises right before they turned on the cameras so that we were all laughing as one big Hee Haw family.”
Jae also said Roman and Rowe will be the big laugh-getters on the new tour. “The down-home humor that rolls from their personalities is just infectious,” she said. “Misty is everyone’s favorite blond bombshell, cute and funny as ever, and Lulu makes us laugh but has a big, beautiful voice to share as well.”
Among the many guest stars who appeared on the show, who made a big impression on you and why?
Trent: “Roy Rogers was my hero. I went up to him to introduce myself on set and he said, ‘I know who you are Buck. I watch you every week!’ That made my day.”
Roman: “Sammy Davis Jr. He was genuine and very respectful. He showed true love to everyone.”
Jae: “So many impressed me, but, of course, we weren’t around for all of them,” she said, citing the filming schedule. “Of course, Chet Atkins was a phenomenal talent and great to work with. We did lots of shows together later. Kenny Rogers was a real gentleman and a great talent, very impressive. He was dating (cast member) Marianne Gordon at the time, so we had some great times together playing tennis and visiting. And they did get married. He was a prince, and Marianne was a true Southern princess, sweet and beautiful inside and out. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were really fun. She was pretty feisty at rehearsal, but wow, when the cameras rolled, they were true professionals. They sounded great, looked great and they had some great stories, too.”
Rowe said she couldn’t pick just one, so she offered three candidates.
1. “June Carter Cash used to come on with Johnny and the family to sing on ‘Hee Haw.’ We used to sit and talk between takes, and when Johnny Cash filmed his own TV special from the Grand Ole Opry, June invited me to do some comedy with her. What an honor!”
2. “Will Geer, who was Grandpa Walton on ‘The Waltons,’ guest-starred and, when the cast broke for lunch, I asked if he liked vegetables. ‘Lordy, yes!’ he said. I drove him to a restaurant called the Cottage and he loved it, then said, ‘Miss Misty, I would like to return the favor. When you get to California, you call me and come have lunch on my set.’ So I did and found myself eating at a picnic table under a tree with the cast of the Waltons!”
3. “After my first husband, James DePaiva, and I lost our first child when I was six months pregnant, I returned to ‘Hee Haw’ four months later, not my usual self. Robin Leach was the guest star, and when he found out about my sadness, he said, ‘Misty, I am going to send you and your husband somewhere to make you smile again.’ And he did. ‘Runaway with the Rich And Famous’ (a TV series hosted by Leach) sent us to Quebec to stay in a castle. I will never forget it. I really wasn’t rich or famous, but it sure made me smile.”
Because “Hee Haw” is still airing in reruns, what’s your opinion on why the series is so enduring?
Roman: “Because it’s one of the few that keep families laughing and is pure country music. Hee Haw is something that can be passed down generation to generation.”
Trent: “Because it was a great family show, and the whole family could sit down together without being embarrassed of what they were seeing.”
Rowe: “For 19 years, I laughed and smiled with the greatest cast ever. We loved each other and still do. I think the audience senses that, and they feel like part of our family when they watch ‘Hee Haw.’ ”
Jae: “I really think it hits the core of middle America. We all have someone in our families that we can identify with at least one of the characters from the show. Not everyone on the show looked a certain way, and it took you through an average day of just the country home — a simple life for sure. I think lots of people wish we could go back to those days. Everywhere I go, people ask me if they are ever going to make a new ‘Hee Haw’ show, and I wish they would. We’re excited to bring our Kornfield Friends show with current ‘Hee Haw’ stars to the stage and to the road, with special guest stars as well. Lots of families watched us every Saturday night for years, and here we come again, folks.”
Tickets can be purchased at freelandcenter.org or by calling 918-637-3540.