The Beverly Hillbillies is one of the most beloved TV shows in American history. The CBS sitcom told the story of The Clampett family and their hilariously fast ascension from abject rural poverty to incredible wealth in Los Angeles, California thanks to the discovery of oil on their land. After Christmas came early for the Clampetts, Elly May, Granny (played by Irene Ryan), Jethro Bodine and family patriarch Jed Clampett up and moved to Beverly (Hills, that is) all sorts of craziness involving swimming pools (or cement ponds) and Oldsmobiles that looked like they barely worked.
From The Beverly Hillbillies to Green Acres and Petticoat Junction, Hollywood loved making shows about hicks in the 1960s. It was made even more comical watching the fictional family's neighbor and banker Milburn Drysdale (played by Raymond Bailey) and his loyal secretary Jane Hathaway (played by Nancy Kulp) assisting them with their massive fortune.
Here are nine facts about the Clampett Clan and their redneck rags-to-riches story.
1. 'The Beverly Hillbillies' rose to number one in the ratings faster than any show ever
Granted, there weren't exactly as many shows on back in 1962, but becoming number one within three weeks of your debut is a pretty incredible achievement for any show. This might have had something to do with the United States desperately needing to laugh after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (and The Beverly Hillbillies being hilarious). The episodes that aired immediately after Kennedy's death are, even today, some of the most-watched half-hours of television comedy of all time.
2. John Wayne had a cameo in an episode and was paid with a fifth of bourbon
TV was considered a (much) lower form of entertainment than movies back in the day, so when The Duke made a cameo in the episode, The Beverly Hillbillies: The Indians Are Coming and, when they asked one of the biggest movie stars of all time how he'd like to be paid, John Wayne replied, "Give me a fifth of bourbon - that'll square it."
3. The show's theme song, 'The Ballad of Jed Clampett,' was a huge hit on the Billboard Charts
The show's iconic theme song was sung by Jerry Scoggins and featured the legendary banjo playing of Earl Scruggs. It reached number 44 on the charts and was one of the first huge mainstream bluegrass hits ever.
4. Jed Clampett was almost someone else on and off-screen
Just before he got the role, Buddy Ebsen was about to quit show business altogether. After he got the role, Ebsen changed the very nature of his character. Originally Jed Clampett was written as a total moron but Ebsen insisted that even though Clampett had no formal education, he should by no means be a fool. After the character was rewritten, Max Baer Jr.'s character Jethro was given most of the ignorant redneck lines.
5. Donna Douglas is a blue jeans icon
After the first season, an executive at Levi Strauss was quoted as saying about the actress who portrayed Elly May Clampett, "Donna Douglas had done more for the sale of blue jeans in one year than cowboys have done in a hundred."
6. The Beverly Hillbillies came from Missouri
In the pilot episode, the narrator at one point says, "Let's take them back to their home in the Ozarks and see how this whole thing got started." Series creator Paul Henning was, in fact, from Missouri in real life. The state contains much of the Ozark mountains, so it makes sense that Henning gave the titular family members a similar origin to his own.
7. The Clampetts were rich, but not billionaires
The mansion the Clampetts lived in sold for $30 million in 2007. According to the first season of the show, Jed Clampett's fortune was $25,000,000, which, adjusted for inflation, is about $200,000,000 today.
8. The show was almost set in New York, not Los Angeles
Originally Paul Henning thought it would be funny to bring a backwoods person (possibly from the year 1860) into modern society. His idea originally involved New York but the cost of filming there as opposed to California necessitated the switch.
9. The series was ultimately canceled in something referred to as 'The Rural Purge'
Tired of having a "country reputation" CBS decided to cancel every show with a country setting so that the network would be more appealing to advertisers seeking a younger, urban audience. At the end of the day, Petticoat Junction, Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies all got the ax.
10. Granny's real name was Daisy Moses
The character was Jed's mother-in-law. Her daughter, Jed's wife, was named Rose Ellen Moses.