“Hee Haw was a concept that nobody thought would ever succeed…”
As a contributing writer for The Huffington Post, Roy Clark reflects on his glory days as the host of the famed country music variety show, “Hee Haw”.
The show was filled with appearances from popular country music artists as well as performances, jokes, sketches and went on to have a successful 24-year run with nearly 600 episodes!
Roy writes about how most people involved in the show didn’t have high expectations for it…
“Hee Haw was a concept that nobody (including myself) thought would ever succeed. Some feared the proposed television program would set the burgeoning country music industry back 25 years. I had my trepidation, but had learned long before in this business that you say ‘yes’ to everything, because most things never happen.”
But shortly after starting the show, Roy realized exactly why it was destined to be such a success.
“My concerns about the Hee Haw (especially about the corny jokes) were abated after watching the first show around halfway in. I finally understood what they were going after. The show was really created in editing – joke, bam, skit, bam, song, bam, skit, bam, cornfield, bam, song, bam, ….and We’ll be right back after this commercial break.”
Although the show had made incredible strides and given CBS a significant boost in ratings from the South, it seemed the success would be short-lived.
“Hee Haw was on CBS for two and a half years when the network decided to cancel it. We were forced out by Fred Silverman, who had come aboard as CBS’s new program director. Silverman’s big complaint when he took over was, in his words, “CBS’s rural image.” He didn’t want to be known as the head of the ‘barnyard network.'”
With the network out the door, those involved were afraid this would be the end, however, the producers had a risky plan that would pay off.
“After our cancellation, everybody involved with Hee Haw wanted to keep it alive. Although there were syndication offers, the producers, who all owned a piece of Hee Haw, intended to keep distribution rights for themselves, rather than leasing them to someone else.”
“With financing in place, all the CBS affiliates that had carried the show when it was on the network were approached and given first option to continue carrying it. As I remember it, about ninety-nine percent of the stations signed up. Instead of being on 165 network affiliate stations, we were now available on 228. In other words, as a result of being canceled, our viewing audience actually increased by a full third!”
And just like that, the show miraculously survived the axe and went on to become a staple in country music history!
Check out the full write-up here, and watch bits from the very first episode of “Hee Haw” in the video below!
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