It was 46 years ago this week that American TV went rural with the launch of Hee Haw, the long-running country variety show.
Set in fictional rural Kornfield Kounty, the show centered on country music and southern culture and featured some of the most popular country musicians and comedians of the day. Hee Haw debuted on CBS on June 15, 1969, as a summer replacement for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and ran for three seasons before enjoying a 20-year run in syndication.
The show was a special treat for guitarists, thanks to hosts Buck Owens and Roy Clark, who at the time were two of the biggest names in country music. The duo would perform on each show, including a recurring segment called “Pickin’ and Grinnin’ on which Owens (“I’m a-picking’!”) played guitar, while Clark (“And I’m a-grinnin’!”) handled banjo. Each also had a chance to perform on his own, providing guitar fans with a feast of great gear and slick country riffing.
Hee Haw also attracted some top entertainment of the day, including Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers and Loretta Lynn, and gave early exposure to upcoming stars like Garth Brooks and George Strait.
In the documentary below, Clark and some of the other cast regulars and program execs recall the show’s history.