Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Junior Samples Breaks On Through

Check out the many facets of Mr. Samples:  Sexy Junior. Philosophical-inebriated Junior. Pensive Junior. Credits say this album was recorded with "Jim Morrison." It's fun to imagine.

While the critics (and the network execs) may have wished Hee Haw into the syndication cornfield after only a couple of seasons, in at least one way, the show was much like its contemporary, Laugh-In:  Hee Haw comics frequently broke the "fourth wall," creating ad-libbed and candid moments that were aired, and often played up. And this was never more effective than with cast members like Junior and Grandpa Jones, whose candid moments were in-character--since the audience was never quite sure just how much "in character" they were in the first place.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Season 1, Episode 12

I don't know which is cooler, this:

Or this:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Saving Country Music One Half-Hour At A Time:  The Marty Stuart Show
If you've got RFDTV on your cable, check this new variety show on Saturday nights. Very much in the vein of the Porter Wagoner Show, with WSM icon Eddie Stubbs (who always looks different from his voice to me) and some great guests. Once again, Marty proves himself country music's coolest friend.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Season 1, Episode 8

Aired 8/10/69

Waylon Jennings: By the late 1970s, Waylon's voice had settled into a pretty uniform baritone--not very dynamic, but totally recognizable. So this performance of "Delia's Gone" is a revelation to me. This version is set against the brooding minor chords of "House of the Rising Sun," and employing some haunting touches of sitar, all of which enhance the song's Appalachian murder ballad lyrics. As the song builds, his voice rises in pitch until it soars dramatically in a range I've never heard from Waylon. The result is absolutely chilling.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Season 1, Episode 5

Aired 7/13/69

Jerry Lee Lewis: After his rock 'n roll career disgracefully ended in disgrace, The Killer took another path, and by the end of the '60s was in the middle of an all-too-brief but brilliant country phase. Appearing subdued and professional on Hee Haw, he performed an inventive, almost ragtime rendition of "Walking the Floor," along with a straight version of his classic "Another Place, Another Time." No visual pyrotechnics, no jumping up and down,
no knocking things over, but plenty of trademark verbal swoops and even a slightly sinister glance or two at the camera.

Those Two Crazy Guys: The first time you see Jimmy Riddle and Jackie Phelps on Hee Haw doing their "Eefin' & Hambone" routine (also known variously as "Eef & Eff" and "What the Eff?!"), you're thinking, "Man, that is the weirdest thing I've seen in a very long time." By the third or fourth time, you're thinking, "Man, that is pure unadulterated genius." Watching Riddle wheeze and heeze and hand-fart maniacally while Phelps hambones his thigh with a slightly vacant look and his other hand placed firmly on his partner's back is a little like seeing the movie Freaks for the first time. Andy Kaufman dreamed of coming up with something this surreal. It defies explanation how I can't remember seeing these guys on the show when I was young, because the experience surely would've left a psychic scar a mile wide. Riddle and Phelps were accomplished musicians who played with the likes of Bill Monroe, but the unsuspecting Hee Haw viewer could be forgiven for thinking they were escapees from Central State.

Just how groovy were the Hager Twins? Check this out:


Monday, September 29, 2008

Season 1, Episode 4

Aired 7/6/69

Waylon Jennings does "Lonely Weekends" and "Only Daddy." As with Haggard, it has to be said, "What happened?!!" Okay, I read Waylon's autobio, so I know what happened with him. Style-wise, Waymore apparently hadn't caught up to his band, who look like the mid-'60s Rolling Stones, while he's still clean-shaven with his hair slicked back into a conservative pompadour. The authoritative voice, singular guitar, and slightly menacing/sexual presence are all here in spades, though. The fade-out on "Lonely Weekends" is abrupt and disconcerting. Who was responsible for the sound on this show? The mule? Beauregard the dog?

Connie Smith. Excellent performance of "Ribbon of Darkness." Hard to go wrong with such a great song, and she does it straightforward and well.

Buck Owens and the Buckaroos do "Sam's Place" and "Crying Time." Terrific, as usual. Don Rich tears up the guitar on "Sam's Place." I can't wait to see Buck and Ray Charles do "Crying Time" (Season 3, Episode 3).

Roy Clark. Normally, I probably wouldn't comment on Roy's instrumental numbers. Suffice to say he can play the heck outta anything with strings. This one's a little more interesting, though. "Overdue Blues" is a rocking tune that wouldn't've been at all out of place on pop radio in '69. In fact, it's even a little groovy. Perhaps to enhance this effect, Roy's performance is accompanied by Lulu Roman (!) doing her version of an interpretive dance in the dimly-lit background. Lulu sways and hangs her head sullenly, wearing what I can only describe as a pair of psychedelic pajamas. It's said Ms. Roman had a thing with drugs in her youth. Watching this, I can believe it.

Season 1, Episode 3

Aired 6/29/69

Tammy Wynette performs "Stand By Your Man" and "Take Me To Your World" on the "nighttime porch" seemingly reserved for the women folk. I've always thought Tammy was too static a performer to be visually interesting, but, as always, her singing's spot on, with all the "tears" in the right places.

George Jones. Now here comes fun. Jones does two of his best songs (if one can pick just two bests from the Legend), "White Lightning" and "Walk Through This World." I have to disclose a certain fascination with George's ever-changing, always-interesting hair. Here, it seems to be in a moderate transition phase between '50s/'60s flattop and '70s long. Typically terrific performances, but there's a crazy LOUD echo on his voice during "Walk" that practically ruins it.

Buck Owens and the Buckaroos do "It Takes People Like You" and "Love's Gonna Live Here." AGAIN with that deafening echo on "Love's Gonna Live Here." Somebody shoot the producer! Buck also teams up with Don Rich, Susan Raye, and the Hagers on "But You Know I Love You." 

Grandpa Jones. One of the best moments in a stupendous episode comes when Grandpa's barreling through "Night Train to Memphis" and breaks a string mid-way, sending his banjo out of tune. This probably could've been edited out for TV, but instead the cast makes jokes while Grandpa mumbles incoherently, feverishly working to replace the string. Faster than you can say "Clifty Farms smoked country ham," he's back in tune and tears back into the song from the beginning without hesitation. Now that's a pro!