Saturday night 50 years ago, who else was held hostage by their grandparents and Lawrence Welk? Raise your hand.
By their other grandparents and Hee Haw?
Back then a handful of relatives and three channels were all we needed to have good, clean entertainment and quality time with those we loved.
At the time, it seemed like TV prison. I would’ve rather watched The Brady Bunch or The Partridge Family but those shows weren’t options at my grandparents house.
We watched what they wanted, which was typically Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Beverly Hillbillies, or other highly-rated programs of the day.
The biggest issue with television today is the crazy number of channels we get; yet there’s almost nothing worth watching.
Sure, there are a few shows these days that are well written and well acted, but programs today are almost cookie cutter. Same premises, same jokes, same actors.
Growing up in Ashdown, Arkansas, we only had three TV networks, but we had a remote control (me getting up to turn the channel when I was told to) and we had an antenna rotor (me getting up and going outside to turn the pole when I was told to).
But we also had programs that everyone could watch. Today, TV shows have audience ratings, such as G, PG, and so on, just like they do at the movies. But not so long ago, you could plop grandma, grandpa, junior, and sissy down in front of the same show without fear that someone’s eyes would pop out of their head and roll across the living room floor.
Not something you had to worry about with Lawrence Welk or Hee Haw. Well, maybe every now and then on the latter, depending on how skimpy the outfits were on the girls popping up in the cornfield.
I had one set of grandparents who never missed The Lawrence Welk Show. The routine was as predictable as the plot of an episode of Matlock. If I was visiting or spending the night with them, we ate supper at five, watched Lawrence Welk at six, studied our Sunday School lesson at seven, and went to bed at eight.
At my other grandparents, it was the same routine, but you removed Lawrence Welk from the equation and inserted Hee Haw.
Both the Welk Show and Hee Haw were victims of the programming purge of 1971.
Welk started as a local show in the early 50s in Los Angeles and moved to network television from the mid 50s until its cancellation by ABC.
Hee Haw enjoyed a popular run on CBS from 1969 to 1971, but was a casualty of network suits, who felt that anything remotely rural on television had run its course and no one wanted to see shows like that any longer.
Both Lawrence Welk and Hee Haw went on to enjoy excellent ratings in syndication, and still do today.
Lawrence Welk remains one of the highest-rated shows on PBS.
Just goes to show you that those at the top didn’t always get there because they knew what they were doing.
Both Welk and Hee Haw had a thing about twins. And so did the viewers. The audience was fascinated with them.
On The Lawrence Welk Show, the Otwell Twins were a popular addition to the program during the later years between 1977 and 1982. The Otwells are from Texas. They frequently appeared on the show with The Aldridge Sisters. The Otwells still live in Texas, but are now in private business.
On Hee Haw, The Hager Twins (Jim and Jon) were popular with viewers. They were spotted performing by Buck Owens and signed to contracts. After appearing on the show for many years, they died within eight months of each other, Jim in 2008 and Jon in 2009 at ages 66 and 67.
But both the Otwells and Hagers, along with the rest of the cast members of both Welk and Hee Haw, live on through reruns, which can still be seen today.
Welk, with its, “Bubbles In The Wine,” and Hee Haw’s, “Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me,” gave us theme songs that have forever embedded the impact of both programs into our memories and those with whom we watched them.
Maybe that’s one good thing about having all of these channels today. You can still find the pearls of our youth if you look hard enough, along with memories of our grandparents and the shows they made us watch.
Which really weren’t that bad at all. If we could only go back just one more time and watch them with again those we love.
©2023 John Moore
John’s books, Puns for Groan People and Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.