My father is from the south right from the hills of Tennessee. We have a relative that was a staple at the Grand Ole Opry so of course I was raised listening to Box Car Willie, Hank Williams, George Jones, Roy Clark, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette and a host of others. I was never a country buff at all. The music was just so tragic to me. It was really back then cry a tear in your beer sort of music however, I did like some of the humor in country and it got me thinking…
Humor and old country music just don’t seem to go hand in hand but how could we be part of the 50s and 60s country scene without the great wit of Minnie Pearl? If you did not grow up in the 50s-60s you may have no idea who “Cousin Minnie Pearl” was but I sure can tell you she made country fun.
I could tell when Minnie Pearl was on without even looking at her because whenever she appeared she would always say Howdy. I don’t mean just howdy, I mean “How-w-w-DEE-E-E-E” and once she yelled “How-w-w-DEE-E-E-E, the audience would yell it right back at her. You knew she was there with that friendly greeting. Her other distinctive trait was she always wore a straw hat with the price tag of 1.98 still on it.
Her humor mainly focused on her family members such as Uncle Nabob and brother. She made it seem okay to be less than smart with life in the back hills of Tennessee. This is funny in itself because Minnie Pearl, who was born Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon was a college graduate in theater and arts and was a rather intelligent woman. She was quite smart indeed so when she met a mountain woman which some would refer to as a country bumpkin, she created her character of Minnie Pearl and the rest was history.
Minnie Pearl could first be heard on the radio in 1939. She made the first of thousands of appearances at on the Grand Ole Opry in 1940 and she appeared at the Grand Ole Opry from 1940 till her death of a stroke in 1996. She was 83 when she died. She was so popular she could fill concert hall throughout the world. Who would have thought a woman playing a hillbilly could bring her so much fame? Sarah knew what she was doing. In fact, she wrote joke books, cook books and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and not for being a musician, but for being, well, Minnie Pearl.
She became fixture on Hee Haw and she was probably my favorite part of that show. It did not matter what part of the house I was in I could hear the How-w-w-DEE-E-E-E. I would run out of my room and watch it for a good chuckle. She was a female comedian in a world that was dominated by males.
The just don’t have characters like Minnie Pearl anymore. It is a real shame. Down home comedy no longer is part of our culture so for me, it was fun remembering Cousin Minnie Pearl. For those who have not heard of her, here is a little video and as Cousin Minnie would say, “I sure hope you fellers and gals enjoy it.” Minnie Pearl Video