The prospects of a new incarnation of the long-running country music-themed television show Hee-Haw being in the works opens up a whole realm of delicious possibilities of how the show could take shape, and who could comprise the cast. Ryman Hospitality who owns the rights to the franchise let it slip a while ago that the company is looking to possibly bring the show back after their success with another TV show they’ve underwritten, Nashville.
Some are concerned that the show that ran for 30 years on CBS and in syndication will never rise to its past glory, and should just be left alone. Others see it as a chance to shine a light on many of the traditions of country—including comedy—while showcasing artists that otherwise get ignored by mainstream media. Perhaps Hee-Haw 2.0 could be a partner in the resurgence of interest in country music’s past we’ve seen growing over the last few years.
So if a new Hee-Haw show comes to pass, who should be part of the cast? The original Hee-Haw was anchored by Bakersfield country legend Buck Owens, and banjo maestro Roy Clark. They hosted the show for the entirety of the franchise aside from a few episodes where guests stepped in due to illness or availability issues. Who could be the next Buck and Roy? Admittedly, this is a little like fantasy football, but it’s a fun question to ponder.
Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt
One key to the co-hosts has to be chemistry, and the combination of Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt certainly has that. Old touring buddies from the 90’s during their “No Hats” era, they could slip right into the role of Buck and Roy without missing a step.
Respected by the country music community, Travis Tritt has proven over the years with his acoustic-only shows that he can hold a crowd, tell a story, and make folks laugh all by himself and keep a crowd engaged. Marty Stuart’s The Marty Stuart Show has been one of the anchor franchises of RFD-TV for years, and was inspired by the old country music variety shows, including Hee-Haw. He’s proven his ability to be the consummate host through his show, and hosting segments on the Grand Ole Opry for years. One of Marty Stuart’s first appearances was on Porter Wagoner’s variety show, which was an inspiration for Hee-Haw.
These two would make perfect emcee’s, are a little older just like Buck and Roy were much of their Hee-Haw careers, without being so over-the-hill they couldn’t fulfill hosting duties and bring energy to the show for years to come. Listen to some of the exchanges between Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt on Tritt’s recent album A Man and His Guitar and you’ll hear how well this pairing could work.
Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley
The last thing the fans of the original Hee-Haw show want to see is it turn into nothing more than a showcase of today’s country stars and their generally dull personalities. Similar to how many of these artists couldn’t hold your attention without the help of Auto-tune, pyrotechnics, and highly-produced stage shows, having Florida Georgia Line or someone of that ilk host Hee-Haw could be disastrous.
But both Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, despite their current star power, are artists that are beloved by many, and also are tolerated by a wide swath of country fans and are treated with respect by many in the traditional country crowd. Brad Paisley finds respect for his guitar playing, and Carrie for her vocal capabilities, and together they’ve been one of the bright spots of the annual CMA Awards in the capacity of co-hosts, with a natural stage presence, good timing, and a true understanding of the type of cornpone humor at the heart of Hee-Haw and country music. Brad Paisley has been playing the funny man in country for years, and Carrie makes the perfect foil.
And don’t be too concerned how Brad and Carrie’s star power or busy schedules could make them too expensive or destroy the possibility of appearing on such a show. According to Hee-Haw historians, most seasons of the show were taped in only two weeks so the cast could still fulfill all of their recording and touring obligations without any serious conflicts.
For the new Hee-Haw to be successful, it has to include some current star power, and not just be all about nostalgia. Brad and Carrie could be the best combination to do that.
Dale Watson and Ray Benson
This pairing probably won’t happen if for no other reason than Dale Watson has left a lot of burned bridges spanning the Cumberland River in Nashville throughout his career, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be an excellent fit. Anyone that has seen Dale Watson live knows he’s an incredible showman and surprisingly funny on stage, and in the old-school Hee-Haw sort of way. He’s an encyclopedia of country music history, and can deliver a joke just as well as a classic country song.
Ray Benson has been hosting the Texas Music Scene television show for years, and as the frontman for Asleep at the Wheel for decades, he knows how to lead a crew and keep an audience entertained. Dale and Ray’s recent album together and the stage show that ensued proved how entertaining they can be when paired together. Over the last couple of years they have also emceed Dale Watson’s annual Ameripolitan Awards together, and have taken the presentation to the next level.
It may be a pipe dream, but Dale and Ray may be the best pairing of them all for the job.
Elizabeth Cook and Todd Snider
If there was any artist Taylor made for a new version of Hee-Haw, it would be Elizabeth Cook. And if there’s anyone who knows about comedic timing and can tell a hell of a story, it’s Todd Snider. Put the two together, and they could take the Hee-Haw franchise to an entirely new level, and perhaps fight crime on the side. One possible hitch might be politics getting in the way, and I’m sure Ryman Hospitality has a little bit more star power in mind for their new show. But Elizabeth Cook has strong ties to the Grand Ole Opry since a few years back she was the show’s go-to fill in performer, and she’s proven she can keep an audience entertained with her SiriusXM radio show Apron Strings. Maybe nothing more than a fun idea, but given a chance, this pairing would probably work.
Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen
Okay, this is likely not to happen since Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen are mostly known for being Texas music guys with a little bit of mainstream appeal and a few years needed to reach the legendary status of some of the other obvious candidates. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t do a hell of a job. On their acoustic “Hold My Beer” tours, the duo has been able to keep audiences entertained and in stitches, and their chemistry together is undeniable. A Texas music fan can dream, right?
Other Country Stars Who Could (or Should) Be Involved?
Kacey is the Queen of Kitsch right now in country music, and it could be a travesty if her and her risque, but traditionally-inspired costumes didn’t make it as a centerpiece of the new Hee-Haw. Remember, one of the anchors of the show was the Hee-Haw Honeys. In fact it became a spinoff franchise for a while. But Kacey Musgraves can do a lot more than just stand there and look pretty. She has a knack for making classic country cool, and she could, and probably should be a part of any Hee-Haw experience moving forward.
The critically-acclaimed songwriter actually wrote a stage play that was brought to production in 2015 called Moonshine: That Hee-Haw Musical, so she knows a thing or two about the show, and how to keep folks entertained with witty lines.
Earl Dibbles Jr.
Yes, we can go back and forth about the quality of production from Granger Smith, but his funny man counterpart would be the perfect new school character for a new incarnation of Hee-Haw. The adventures of Earl Dibbles Jr. could easily be a weekly skit.
Wheeler Walker Jr.
No, he won’t be able to do his smutty material on national TV, nor would anyone want him too. But perhaps a weekly segment filled with smartly-placed sexual innuendo might make for an interesting bit of modern-day spice to the show. And his real life counterpart Ben Hoffman may make a good writer for the new Hee-Haw behind-the-scenes.
Many Folks from the RFD-TV Crew
The cast of Larry’s Country Diner, many of the regular musical guests that have been left behind by mainstream country that appear on RFD-TV shows, including younger artists like Mo Pitney and The Quebe Sisters, to older artists such as T.G. Sheppard, Gene Watson, Jimmy Fortune, T. Graham Brown, Ricky Skaggs, Moe Bandy, and many others, could and should be included somehow in the show, along with newer stars to keep the show relevant. All those older artists that are keeping the Grand Ole Opry alive while the newer ones shirk their duties, these are the type of artists that in some way should be rewarded by the new Hee-Haw if it comes to pass.
Who do you think should co-host or be a part of the new Hee-Haw?