Hee Haw

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excerpt from Ted Olson (http://encyclopediaofappalachia.com):

Due to its broad scope of influence both within and outside the region, Appalachian music has been a powerful perpetrator of regional stereotypes. Although originating outside Appalachia, nineteenth-century minstrel show performances featuring white musicians derisively exaggerating black culture adversely affected the social standing of African Americans in the region after emancipation.

In the twentieth century, the barn dance—which achieved national popularity via radio and which sustained that popularity into the 1990s through such television programs as Hee Haw—provided steady work and significant exposure for many Appalachian musicians. But in order to represent rural culture, which held novelty appeal for main- stream audiences, producers directed Appalachian musicians to project a hillbilly identity.

The stereotype inevitably left far-flung audiences with negative and inaccurate impressions of Appalachian people. These barn dances particularly misrepresented two aspects of the region’s culture: Appalachian speech and Appalachian clothes. Musicians were encouraged to exaggerate their regional speech and to wear standardized hillbilly dress, including bib overalls and straw hats.

Likewise distorting general understanding of Appalachian regional culture during the twentieth century were attitudes toward Appalachian people of some of the musicians associated with the century’s several folk revivals, whose representations of Appalachian culture, whether earnest or intentionally exploitive, were rendered un- trustworthy by both positive and negative stereotyping.

Positive stereotypes included the revivalists’ romanticized portrayals of Appalachian musicians as mountain sages or noble savages; negative stereotyping involved the unfavorable characterization of Appalachian people as “rubes,” “hicks,” or “degenerates.”

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2 Responses to “Hee Haw”

  1. REED MARTIN Says:

    It is not nice to think of country folk as less intelligent than others. However, sometimes it is difficult. As a kid growing up in the country I can still remember the incident in our local paper about the man who was making a sandwich on the front seat of his car – and drove thru the wood barrier warning about the “bridge out.” His car landed in the bottom of a creekbed, and it took hours to get a crane in place to lift it out.
    …..and the time the police stopped a hillbilly who didn’t have money for new tires – – so he was driving his old car thru our town ON THE RIMS……
    …..and the two guys who didn’t have money for booze, so they figured that if they stuffed a piece of metal drain spout with a loaf of bread – the bread would filter out the “bad stuff” in the gasoline as they poured it thru – and they would end up with alcohol they could drink. They did live – but against all the odds.
    Remembering when the very first television came to our area and
    everyone figured it was just another fad passing thru. Seeing Jackie Wilson singing on that TV and getting an entirely different appreciation for the expression “singing.” He did not sit and look bored while he sang. I will always remember watching him jump off about the third stair of a stairway – and land – doing “the splits” and continuing to sing as if it was just no big deal…..
    Memories from Bloomington, Indiana – when the population was under 30,000, and country folk brought their fiddles & banjos to the town square to play “string music.”

  2. Ron or Donna Says:

    The rusticated, disheveled hillbilly theme was first advanced by promoters of the Grand Ol’ Opry. Charles K. Wolf wrote eloquently on the subject, pointing out that artists like Dr. Humphrey Bate always preferred to perform in their “Sunday best” but were given the hillbilly treatment by the Solemn Old Judge. Commercial country music has always aimed for the lowest common denominator.

    RA

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