Known for its campy jokes and country-themed skits, Hee Haw was an American television staple, running for over 20 years on CBS and in syndication. Reruns of the classic show, created by Frank Peppiatt and John Aylesworth, have been airing since 2008. While the variety show, which first aired in 1969, was inspired by Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, it was focused on country music and rural culture and became one of the most beloved TV shows of all time.
Hee Haw was also notable for featuring "Hee Haw honeys" like Lisa Todd who wore farmer's daughter garb and mini dresses, as well as for having Playboy Playmate Barbi Benton as a cast member and Kathie Lee Gifford as part of spinoff series Hee Haw Honeys.
The main thing that set the show apart, though, was the country music and all of the notable stars and acts that appeared in Kornfield Kounty over the show's run. Loretta Lynn, Roy Rogers, Charley Pride, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Conway Twitty, George Jones, George Lindsey, Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, Archie Campbell, Gordie Tapp and Misty Rowe all appeared on the variety show. Hee Haw featured some of the most legendary acts in country music. Some of the cast members like Lulu Roman, Sheb Wooley, Roy Acuff, Kenny Price, and the Hager twins even had their own separate musical careers.
After a 20 year run of success, many of the show's leading acts, cast members, and recurring guest stars have passed on, years after their time singing and playing hillbillies on the beloved Cornfield set. We've rounded up some of the audience favorites with updates on where they ended up after their time on the country music-inspired variety show.
Clark was the main host of the popular variety show for 293 episodes. Following the success of Hee Haw, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He passed away in 2018 in his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Gunilla Hutton is an actress best known for her roles on Billie Jo Bradley on Petticoat Junction. She was a regular cast member on Hee Haw until 1992. During her time on the long-running variety show, Hutton also appeared on the television shows The Love Boat and Perry Mason.
Beyond his fame on Hee Haw, Buck Owens was of course a beloved singer-songwriter who had 21 No. 1 hits on the Billboard country music charts with his band the Buckaroos. He left Hee Haw after being the co-host for 230 episodes, believing that he had affected his credibility as a country artist. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame before passing away in 2006.
Born Alvin Samples Jr., Samples was a comedian best known for his success on the show. He was a sixth-grade drop out who told a tall tale on the radio when he was 40 years old about catching the largest fish ever seen in his hometown, which became a famous novelty record. This led to him being asked to join the cast of Hee Haw where he created a bumbling character for himself. He passed away in 1983.
Louis Marshall Jones was a banjo player and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Early in his career, he started working at a radio station in Massachusetts where he earned the nickname "Grandpa" because of how grumpy he was in the mornings. He passed away in 1998 in Nashville, Tennessee.
David "Stringbean" Akeman
Best remembered for his comedic stage costume, Akeman was a main cast member on Hee Haw and a skilled banjo player. On November 10, 1973, after coming home from the Grand Ole Opry, Akeman and his wife were shot and killed. They were discovered the following morning by Akeman's neighbor and castmate, Grandpa Jones.
Minnie Pearl was a comedian performing at the Grand Ole Opry in addition to Hee Haw. After suffering from breast cancer she became an advocate in Nashville, founding the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center (using her birth name of Sarah Cannon). She passed away in 1996.
This story from 2018 previously ran on July 24, 2020.