The actual 40th anniversary of this show begins in June...June 15th to be exact. It was on June 15, 1969 over CBS-TV that Hee-Haw went on the air for the first time. The show was an unexpected hit and it's initial season lasted from June 15, 1969 through September 1969. It went off the air and probably not many were thinking it would return again...but CBS ordered more episodes and these new episodes started airing in December 1969 and lasted until April 1970. The ratings were pretty high even still and the show returned in the fall of 1970 and would remain on the CBS network until July 1971. The last episode for CBS had aired in February 1971 but reruns continued through the summer months.
The show didn't go away after being dropped from CBS as we all know. It was picked up in syndication and from September 1971 through February 1991, the show aired uninterrupted, 20 straight years. After the February episode it went into it's rerun period and as I touched on in a previous entry the show didn't return in the fall...instead it returned in January 1992 and would run until May before going out of production for good. The guests on the first show of 1992 were Barbara Mandrell, Vern Gosdin, and Joe Diffie. A few weeks later Garth Brooks, Diamond Rio, and Trisha Yearwood were guests.
It's a testament to the show's popularity and longevity that virtually every country music singer made an appearance on this show...some made plenty of appearances as it was one of the few national programs spotlighting country music. Also, the various styles of country music were spotlighted front and center on this program, too. There were several episodes that celebrated country-pop artists...one in particular was an episode with Jerry Lee Lewis, another with Ray Charles. Celebrities outside of country music made appearances. There were episodes with Oral Roberts and his wife...even a few episodes with Billy Carter, brother of Jimmy Carter. There was an episode with Robin Leach who spoofed his LIFESTYLES program and went through Laverne and Ida Lee Nagger's dump. Doc Severensen made a guest appearance...so did Ed McMahon. Johnny Bench made an appearance...Sonny Shroyer, the actor who portrayed Enos on "Dukes of Hazzard", made an appearance. Jonathan Winters was a cast-member of the show in the early 1980's...often appearing in group segments...but he didn't have any skits starring himself. Gailard Sartain's style was similar to Jonathan's.
After Archie's death, Gunilla continued playing the role of the Nurse in which female cast members would show up as patients and she'd dish out advice about men or one of the younger male cast members would be a patient who'd flirt with her, that sort of thing.