'Hee Haw' Producer Sam Lovullo Dead at 88

ACM Honoree Played Key Role in Country Music’s Growth on Television

Sam Lovullo, producer and casting director of the long-running Hee Haw TV series (1969-1992), died Tuesday (Jan. 3) at his home in Encino, California. He was 88.

Lovullo was born on Sept. 30, 1928, in Buffalo, New York. When he was 15, he moved to Los Angeles. His first brush in the entertainment business was as chief accountant in business affairs for the CBS radio and television network.

He entered the production side on The Jonathan Winters Show (1967-1969), ultimately rising to the post of associate producer. Here Lovullo met the show's writers, John Aylesworth and Frank Peppiatt. The three men noticed that the show's generally tepid ratings came to a boil whenever it featured country music stars.

When Winter's show was canceled, the three persuaded CBS to finance and air a country music variety show -- shot in Nashville -- which they named Hee Haw. It ran on CBS from 1969 to 1971 and in syndication until 1992, with Lovullo steadily at the helm.

In all, he produced 86 episodes of Hee Haw, as well as segments for Nashville Palace and Hee Haw Honeys. The Academy of Country Music presented him its Jim Reeves Memorial Award in 1974, an honor conferred on those who contribute substantially to the acceptance of country music throughout the world.

Valued for his work in Nashville's entertainment community, Lovullo served on both the Country Music Association and Gospel Music Association boards.

He chronicled his Music City experiences in the 1996 book, Life in the Kornfield: My 25 Years at Hee Haw.

Although residing in California, Lovullo continued to do occasional television work in Nashville after Hee Haw closed down. In 2001, he produced an all-star benefit concert at the Grand Ole Opry for ailing Opry star Johnny Russell.

Lovullo's son, Torey, was a major league baseball player and coach and now manages the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

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