Sam Lovullo, the producer and casting director of the TV show Hee Haw, has died. CMT reports that he passed away Tuesday (Jan. 3) in Encino, Calif., where he lived; he was 88 years old.

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., on Sept. 30, 1928, Lovullo moved to Los Angeles at the age of 15. He got his start in the entertainment industry as an accountant for CBS. His first production gig was for The Jonathan Winters Show, which ran from 1967 until 1969; Lovullo moved through the ranks to associate producer during his time with the TV show.

While with The Jonathan Winters Show, Lovullo noticed that appearances by country artists earned the show big ratings, and so, when the show was canceled, he and writers John Aylesworth and Frank Peppiatt pitched the idea of a country music variety show to CBS -- and Hee Haw was born.

After premiering on CBS in June of 1969, Hee Haw ran on the network until 1971, then in syndication for 20 years. In total, Lovullo produced 86 Hee Haw episodes; Life in the Kornfield: My 25 Years at Hee Haw, a 1996 book by Lovullo and Marc Eliot, recalls his time with the show.

After Hee Haw ended, Lovullo occasionally worked in television in Nashville, but lived in California. He earned the Academy of Country Music's Jim Reeves Memorial Award -- given to those who have helped make country music popular across the globe -- in 1974, and he served on the boards of both the Country Music Association and the Gospel Music Association.

Funeral arrangements for Lovullo have not been shared. His son Torey is a former MLB infielder and current manager of the league's Arizona Diamondbacks.

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