In Happy Hee Haw New Year Part 1 I wrote about the interesting backstory to the classic country comedy show, Hee Haw, and featured an interview with original cast member Lulu Roman.
In Part 2 I conclude my series with two additional original cast member interviews…Jana Jae and Buck Trent. Sit back and relax. As Roy Clark and Buck Owens said in the opening of one episode, “it’s time for singing and it’s time for jokes, so gather ’round and join us, folks.”
Jana Jae took up the violin at age 2, albeit a miniature version. She has a degree in music and studied at the Vienna Academy of Music. Buck Owens hired her to be in his Buckaroos band which led to multiple performances on Hee Haw. Her repertoire isn’t limited to country music. Jae has played the Montreux Jazz Festival, Wembley Festival, and the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Known as “the first lady of country fiddle”, she’s toured Australia, Africa, Brazil, Japan, and the Philippines. In addition to Buck Owens and Roy Clark, she’s performed with Chet Atkins, Ricky Skaggs, The Oakridge Boys, Mel Tillis, Ray Stevens, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Jae has several albums under her belt and also founded her own Fiddle Camp and Music Festival which takes place in Grove, Oklahoma.
Peter: I know you have many fond memories, but can you share a specific “Hee Haw” memory?
Jana: Working alongside some of the many wonderful guest stars was a real eye-opener to me! Roy Rogers & Dave Evans, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, and so many more – I loved it! One funny thing was when Junior Samples brought his jug to our taping – his real, authentic moonshine jug thrown over his shoulder – sip, sip, sip! I think that was the first and last time on set, but it proved to me he was the real deal!!
Peter: Give me a sense of what it was like during one week of recording for “Hee Haw”. Did you rehearse beforehand?
Jana: Since I was a member of Buck’s band, we planned our time very efficiently. We had recorded some of the tracks ahead of time, and we all generally knew the songs and arrangements, at least Buck’s vocals (which he sang live on set). We would usually put in a full day in front of the cameras, doing all Buck’s songs together, then all of the cast songs together, then all the cornfields, the fence shots, whatever guests were scheduled, any solos or group fiddle numbers, etc. They had a detailed schedule for a couple weeks, then we left. It was really quite efficient – and always great fun!!!
Peter: Do you have a favorite performance from “Hee Haw” or do they all kind of blend together now? Did you perform before an audience or were applause tracks added later?
Jana: I sure enjoyed the cast songs and the group fiddle numbers, still favorites, but I really enjoyed everything we did on Hee Haw! We performed before a small audience of friends and cast members, seated on hay bales with backs to the cameras. I was so surprised when I first arrived on set – I had expected every show in an auditorium packed full! Not! They filmed, gathered all the footage, then would piece together the shows, add effects or the barnyard animals going across the screen, lots of fun things. We never knew who or what would be in a finished show – it was amazing how each show was done! Genius!!
Peter: Why do you think the show was so popular?
Jana: Hee Haw was a family show! It was a weekly family event before we had hundreds of channels to choose from, the entire family sat down to laugh and enjoy Hee Haw together – it was a fabulous show that really united families across America! It was fast-paced, full of fun, corny but funny humor, comedy sketches, and tons of great music, some clap along tunes and also current hits with stars who loved the exposure. And of course, the girls got lots of attention, but still fine for the whole family to enjoy. Everybody who was anybody wanted to be on the show!!!
Peter: Your famous blue violin was a gift (or an order!) from Buck Owens and you still use it to this day. You weren’t too keen on it at first but it must have become very special to you. Why was Owens insistent you play that specific violin?
Jana: He thought it would look good on camera and be different from Don Rich’s red-white-and-blue fiddle. And he was right!! It gets lots of attention!
Peter: You were married to Owens for a short time but you both remained friends until his passing, right?
Peter: Buck Owens left “Hee Haw” in 1986. Were you surprised by the comments in Owens’ autobiography about only being a part of “Hee Haw” for the money? He always looked to me like he was genuinely having fun.
Jana: Buck valued money because he grew up poor and really wanted to make plenty so he would never be poor again! He was always fun to be with and I know he genuinely enjoyed being on Hee Haw! We always had a great time!
Peter: What’s it like performing alongside some of the original “Hee Haw” cast members again? The Kornfield Friends came about almost by accident, right?
Jana: After I bought Roy Clark’s bus and we had such fun on the road, I had been talking for years to many managers about a Hee Haw road show. It kind of stayed on my back burner, but no real dramatic interest for a long time. It evolved right after we all were together again for producer Sam Lovullo’s memorial celebration. Sam really united us all – our Big Daddy! We all wanted to pay tribute to him and his contribution to so many of our careers, and after the memorial, where everyone either spoke or performed a song, lots of us went to dinner at Johnny A’s. They had a really good house band, and they kept asking me to play the fiddle (which was all put up and tucked away in the trunk of my car). I finally said I’d play if I could have a little help from my Hee Haw friends, and Misty immediately said, “I’ll dance if you’ll play!” We had a ball, and needless to say, we brought the house down! I talked to Misty about doing a show at one of the three summer festivals I present on Grand Lake in Oklahoma. She came and we absolutely had a hit! So, I added Buck Trent and we did several shows with that configuration, and Misty had a genuine cornfield that was a hit with the crowds. I had booked Lulu on a couple of our festivals also, so I asked Lulu to do some shows with us I formed an LLC, fronted all the initial start-up costs with my band and my bus, and Kornfield Friends was born! I probably won’t ever get my investment back because just as we were really going full steam ahead, COVID hit and wiped out our 2020 year full of bookings! Whatever evolves, it was worth it – and my dream goes on. We’ve taken a breath, but we’re still around, I still have the bus and the band and hope we’ll visit many more towns across the country. It’s a very special thing to meet in person the audiences who have watched us on tv over the years! I always felt the Hee Haw cast was like extended family. I treasure that family, including the wonderful family audiences who watched us over the years!
Peter: You’ve accomplished a great deal in your life- founded a fiddle camp and music festival, played alongside some big names, and you’re an outstanding musician in your own right. But for many people, you’ll always be Jana Jae with the blue violin from “Hee Haw”. Does that bother you?
Jana: I love it! At first, I was shocked by the blue fiddle they gave me to play on Hee Haw – I was kind of a purist with my wonderful Italian violin made in 1750 –but after receiving fan mail addressed to “the girl with the blue fiddle”, it became sort of my trademark – I always play the blue fiddle in my country concerts!
Peter: What artists/music do you listen to when you have the time? Do you prefer records, CDs, or downloads?
Jana: Whatever is handy at the time – I can barely keep up with the opportunities on all the new online music platforms. Great fun to surf a bit, and I still like YouTube for being able to pick and choose easily. Of course, I have tons of vinyl, CDs, etc., but find I listen most online now.
Peter: Do you find music keeps you feeling young and energetic?
Jana: Absolutely – I can’t imagine what I would do without music in my life – it’s definitely in my blood, a life source! It refreshes me every day – and I’d love to spend more time creating music! I just want to stay happy, healthy, and keep making music every day of my life. That is being blessed, and hopefully it blesses others as well! That’s the real joy – to share music!!
Charles W. “Buck” Trent has played the bajo since age 10. He’s performed with such luminaries as Bill Monroe, Porter Wagoner, Roy Clark, Marty Stuart, and Dolly Parton (he played lead guitar on Parton’s Jolene and I Will Always Love You). He and Roy Clark were the first country music duo to tour the Soviet Union in 1976. Trent’s received many awards over the decades and has appeared on numerous TV shows including The Tonight Show, Mike Douglas Show, and Dinah! He invented the electric banjo but also plays the steel guitar, electric bass, mandolin, and guitar. His latest CD is called Spartanburg Blues and features Dolly Parton, The Oak Ridge Boys, Vince Gill, David Frizzell, and Marty Stuart.
Peter: I’m sure you’ve never been asked this before 😊, but how did your trademark “Oh Yeah!” and thumbs up thing come about?
Buck: The “Oh Yeah!” and thumbs up came about while taping my Talkin’ Blues [song]. After I sang the punchline to the joke, there were a few beats left and I had to have something to say. So, I said “Oh Yeah!” and gave the thumbs up!
Peter: How were you able to tape 13 Kornfield sketches back-to-back without it getting old real fast?
Buck: The Kornfield jokes were usually with different people so it was fun. The jokes were so corny and the more you messed them up the better it was.
Peter: Can you give me one favorite “Hee Haw” memory?
Buck: My favorite memory from Hee Haw was the day Roy Rogers and Dale Evans taped the show. He was my childhood hero. I went over to him to introduce myself and he said, “I know who you are Buck, I watch you every week!” That made my day!
Peter: “Hee Haw” was one of the first shows to air bloopers. Is there one that sticks out in your mind? Did you have any bloopers?
Buck: There were a lot of bloopers. Junior Samples took 14 takes on the word “pollution”. He couldn’t pronounce it. Roy Clark had to get up and down with Junior 14 times. It wore Roy out! I’m sure I had a few but I can’t remember any.
Peter: When did you leave the show and why?
Buck: I left in 1983 or 1984. The reason I left was I had quit working with Roy Clark and went out on my own. I was just phased out of Hee Haw.
Peter: Was “Hee Haw” a blessing or a curse? What do you think when you watch the reruns today?
Buck: It was a blessing for me and a lot of the others. I like watching the reruns. We did some great picking and singing on that show. We had the best guests on it, too.
Peter: I have to admit, I got a bit choked up watching you interacting with Roy Clark during the 2012 “Salute To The Kornfield” reunion.
Buck: The reunion was fun. Roy and I just picked up where we left off. It was so special seeing everyone again. There were so many that died after we taped it. So sad to lose so many friends.
Peter: What was it like working with Roy Clark?
Buck: Working with Roy was a lot fun. They said we had a wonderful time! Ha ha! We traveled the world together. Our dueling banjos is still a hit. No one has done it better than us!
Peter: How is it playing with the Kornfield Friends from “Hee Haw“?
Buck: The Kornfield Friends concerts was a lot of fun. I loved it and would like to do more.
Peter: Do you still perform your famous “Talkin’ Blues” song?
Buck: Yes, I do the Talkin’ Blues at the Kornfield shows. Robert Lunn came up with the original one. I did his first verses. Then I had to write my own for every show.
My last question to Buck, since he also told jokes on Hee Haw, was whether he had heard any good (or bad) jokes lately. He said no, so I’ll steal one from one of his live shows: It was so cold out today, I saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets!
Hee Haw was a wholesome program the entire family could enjoy together. There aren’t too many shows you can say that about today. I think the best way for me to close this article is to quote from Hee Haw’s closing theme: “May your pleasures be many, your troubles be few.”
My personal thanks to Lulu Roman, Jana Jae, and Buck Trent for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer my questions. A huge shout out also to Scott Sexton and Jean Trent for facilitating these interviews.
Trivia (from metv.com): “Elvis Presley was reportedly such a big fan of [Hee Haw], he wanted to appear as a guest. Presley also dated two Hee Haw Honeys: Linda Thompson and Diana Goodman. After the legendary singer’s death, his father made an appearance on the show and paid tribute to his late son.”
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Salute to the Kornfield DVD