Shortly after one of the best contributors to the show Gordie Trapp died the Hee Haw fans were dealt yet another blow to their leftover treasure, as the show’s co producer Sam Lovullo died this past week in his California home from heart disease. In 1969 he and the two other writers noticed a rise in ratings during the Johnathan Winters show when it featured Country Music stars. The initial show was created by Frank Peppiatt and John Aylesworth who teamed up with Mr. Sam to produce and write the sketches and jokes while also listening to input from Archie Campbell and Gordie Trapp. Later on Mr. Archie and Mr. Gordie went on to have more creative input and were allowed to evolve some of their classic characters they made famous.
Mr. Sam went on to not only introduce the concept of the down home humor and skits that adorned our screens and our youth, but he also wrote the jokes and created many of the characters we know now. He produced the entire run of the show for all the 20 plus years save for the last five years of syndication.
As we all know the music portions of the show were recorded before live audiences at Opryland and many of the frequent guests like Loretta Lynn and Cash would often be furnished overalls to dress in. However the joke and skit segments were filmed in bulk fashion to play through the week to save on production costs. The show was one of the places that brought mainstream people the likes of Keith Whitley as he transcended from Bluegrass to Country, as well as bringing Ricky Van Shelton, Conway Twitty, Alan Jackson and many others. However one day the cornfield was set up, one day newscaster Don Harron (Charlie Farquharson) would record his news broadcasts, The judge Archie Campbell and also doctor skits were all pre recorded and a laugh track was edited in at a later time.
The shows hosts Buck Owens and Roy Clark were already at the pinnacles of their career when they were chosen to host the show and accepted the spots. The Buckaroos often appeared on the show even past the 1974 death of Buck’s right hand man Don Rich at 34 in a motorcycle accident that left Buck Owens emotionally and professionally drained as a viable act of his time. Capitol Records producer Ken Nelson who masterminded many of Buck Owens albums self admittedly lamented of Don’s passing as the the end of Buck Owens And The Buckaroos. Toward the end of the show’s twenty year run Buck Owens left the show and it resulted in a rotating musical guest to accompany Roy Clark, and in the final season Roy Clark hosted the show solo.
Despite the show’s commercial success it sparked heated political debates within the CBS corporate offices as Michael Dann who hated the show personally but supported it professionally locked horns with Fred Silverman who believed it could not generate more ratings. In 1971 CBS dropped the variety show and forced it to continue on another network for a record twenty plus years. It in fact remains the longest prime time comedy show of it’s kind in history.
Sam Lovullo had retired from producing for the final five years of the show’s run having lived through many of the deaths of the show’s main cast members and having to say farewell to many of the Country Music Legends that graced the Hee Haw stage with iconic performances the likes of Charley Pride and Clint Black. Having many of the former cast members passed away Mr. Sam saw the forthcoming change of the business and music and announced his retirement from television although he did occasional work including assisting in producing a fund raiser at the Opry for Johnny Russell.
Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Grace; brothers Tony and Joe; their children Linda, Lisa, Anthony and Torey, now manager for baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks; grandchildren Matthew, Katie, Nick, Taylor and Connor; and great-grandchildren Sage, Grace and Olivia.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday at St. Cyril’s of Jerusalem in Encino. Donations in Lovullo’s honor can be made to St. Jude Medical Foundation.