Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Frank Peppiatt Dead at 85

Frank Peppiatt (right) and long-time business
partner John Aylesworth, who died in 2010
Frank Peppiatt, the Canadian-born co-creator of HEE HAW, died on Wednesday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, at age 85.

Peppiatt was born in Toronto on March 19, 1927, to Frank and Sarah Peppiatt. His father was a car salesman. After graduating in 1949 from the University of Toronto, he became an advertising copywriter. An entry-level job at the Canadian Broadcasting Company led to production credits in Canada and to his longtime partnership with John Aylesworth. By the mid-1950s he was working in American television.

Created in 1969 by Peppiatt andAylesworth, HEE-HAW had a proudly cornpone sense of humor and a lineup of musical guests that included some of the biggest names in Nashville.

“John and I knew we were pushing a boulder uphill with HEE HAW,” Peppiatt wrote in his autobiography, “When Variety Was King: Memoir of a TV Pioneer,” scheduled to be published next year. “Country music was considered a second- or even third-rate art form in the entertainment capitals of New York and Los Angeles.”

HEE HAW included a regular soap opera sketch,
The Culhanes of Cornfield County)
HEE HAW was an immediate hit. It was added to the primetime lineup by the end of the year. Along with running gags about cows, corn and other rustic subjects, delivered by a large ensemble cast, the show’s hosts, the country musicians Buck Owens and Roy Clark, traded jokes and exchanged a standard line, written by Peppiatt, that for a time entered the lexicon.

“I’m a-pickin’,” Mr. Owens would say. “And I’m a-grinnin’,” Mr. Clark would reply.

One of the regular sketches was "The Culhanes," a take on soap opera-esque storylines.

HEE HAW continued in syndication until 1992, leaving an archive of more than 600 episodes. It currently airs on RFD-TV.

Peppiatt was writer and producer for a number of other series including BARBARA MANDRELL AND THE MANDRELL SISTERS, THE SONNY AND CHER SHOW and THE JONATHAN WINTERS SHOW.

His death, of bladder cancer, was announced by a spokesman for ECW Press, the publisher of his autobiography.

He is survived by his wife, Caroline; two daughters from a previous marriage, Francesca-Robyn and Marney Peppiatt; and four grandchildren.

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