Roy Clark Reflects on ‘Hee Haw': ‘I’m Proud I Was Part of It’
For more than 20 years, country artist Roy Clark co-hosted Hee Haw, a TV comedy variety show that focused on country music and rural life. The show debuted on CBS in June of 1969, and although the network dropped Hee Haw in 1971, it continued to run in local syndication until September of 1992, making it the longest-running weekly syndicated series in TV history.
"Looking back on that, it's sad and it's happy," Clark tells The Boot. "It's sad that we've lost so many of the characters and friends, but it's happy that we do have them to remember ... Any way I look at it, it's a major part of my life, and I'm proud I was part of it."
Fans of Clark, longtime co-host Buck Owens, the Hee Haw Honeys, LuLu Roman and the other series regulars, not to mention the special guests that visited Kornfield Kounty each week, can now add The Hee Haw Collection, a newly released DVD set, to their personal DVD collections. A three-disc set features five classic episodes, while an eight-disc set includes 11 episodes, and a 14-disc set contains 23 episodes, all from the late '60s and early '70s; the collection also features bonus interviews with Hee Haw regulars.
"When you see it, the colors seem to be brighter," Clark says of the collection. "The way that they put it together, the way that they used my introductions and things, I couldn't be more pleased."
Although Hee Haw has been off the air for more than 20 years now, Clark says that the show still has a solid fan base. The 82-year-old happily notes that he very often has people come up to him and say, "Well, I'm a-pickin'," -- a nod to his and Owens' "Pickin' and Grinnin'" bit -- and he'll respond, "I'm a-grinnin'."
"It makes me feel good that they remember enough that they would go through that little bit of energy [to make the reference]," Clark explains. "I feel that is a very, very nice, warm gesture letting me know that I represent something nice in their life."
He also encounters a new generation of Hee Haw fans, introduced to the show by their parents and/or grandparents ... though some are a bit more predisposed to Hee Haw fandom than others.
"Some [original fans] went as far as to name their children after us!" Clark says with a laugh.
To Clark, it's obvious why the show endures: "We never hurt anyone," he explains. "We weren't controversial. We just hopefully brought pleasure into your home, and something you could share with your whole family."
He later adds, "More than anything, [Hee Haw] was just a nice, warm feeling. We didn't sell anything. We didn't try to put anything we believe into it. I guess you'd say we were right down the middle of the road ..."
The special guests were important, too, of course. Dozens and dozens of famous country names were Hee Haw cast members or made appearances as special guests throughout the years; the new DVD collection includes, among others, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard and Tammy Wynette.
"I was caught up in the fact that, after all the years I'd been playing music, all of a sudden, I was surrounded by some of my idols, ones that I looked forward to being with every day," Clark reflects. "You just don't find a situation like that [all the time] ... You can't ask for much more than that."