Frank Peppiatt, who brought country culture to the forefront of the national media as co-creator of Hee Haw, died on Wednesday (11/7) in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. He was 85 and had been battling cancer.
Peppiatt and John Aylesworth helped launch the show in 1969. After CBS cancelled it two years later, it went on to become one of the longest-running syndicated series of all time, lasting more than two decades.
Peppiatt and Aylesworth loosely based the show on the then-popular sketch comedy series Laugh-In. The idea for the country twist came after appearances by country stars including Jimmy Dean, Dale Evans and Minnie Pearl led to a ratings spike on The Jonathan Winters Show, which Peppiatt and Aylesworth previously produced.
Hee Haw was produced by Sam Lovullo. Buck Owens and Roy Clark co-hosted, and regulars included Minnie Pearl, Grandpa Jones, Stringbean, and George Lindsey. George Richie, and later Charlie McCoy, led the house band which backed the numerous country stars who performed on the show.
Peppiatt also produced television variety shows, including series and specials for Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and Julie Andrews. His book, When Variety Was King: Memoir of a TV Pioneer Featuring Jackie Gleason, Sonny and Cher, Hee Haw and More will be published in April 2013. Aylesworth passed in 2010.