Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Gordie Tapp has passed away at the age of 94.
He is best known in the U.S. for his long-running tenure in the cast of the Hee Haw country comedy TV series. The show aired for an impressive 25 years, first as a network series and then in syndication. It was launched in 1969 and endured until 1994.
Tapp portrayed “Cousin Clem” on the show, a member of the “Culhane family.” These deadpan characters sat on a parlor sofa and humorously related their tribulations. He and Archie Campbell also sang and spoke the “Pfft! You Was Gone” and the “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me” segments each week on the telecasts.
Tapp also starred in the “Samuel B. Sternwheeler” bits, offering nonsensical homilies. Following his ridiculous recitations he would be hit over the head with a rubber chicken or be handed an exploding bomb that left him covered in soot. “Sternwheeler” was also the plantation daddy of Marianne Gordon’s pampered Southern-belle character.
He was the proprietor of the fictional Kornfield Kounty establishment “Gordie’s General Store,” wherein he traded comedic banter with his incompetent employee Gailard Sartain. He partnered with Roni Stoneman to enact the squabbling backwoods couple “LaVern and Ida Lee Nagger.” And like the other cast members, he popped up to deliver one-liners in the show’s cornfield set.
Gordie Tapp and his fellow cast member Charlie Farquharson were both already well known in their native Canada prior to Hee Haw. Tapp had been a broadcast personality for years. During the 1950s, he was a founding cast member of Main Street Jamboree, a radio and TV series produced in Hamilton, Ontario. Between 1956 and 1965, he hosted the national CBC radio program Country Hoedown.
Despite his TV success in the U.S., Tapp was resolute about staying in his homeland. He was very proudly a Canadian.
After Hee Haw ended, he appeared in TV commercials for Ultramafic beds. He also raised funds for Easter Seals and for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He annually portrayed Santa Claus on the Hamilton radio station CHML, taking calls from children and talking to them about their Christmas wishes.
In recent years, Gordie Tapp and his wife were residents of a Canadian retirement center. He died there on Sunday, Dec. 18. He is survived by his wife Helen and his children Kate, Jeff and Barbara.
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