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Chapel Hill, N.C., Thursday, June 17, 1971
by Bruce Mann
"A man don't realize they's so many
nice people in the world 'til ya start
travelin' aroun', ya know. I tell ya the
way I foun' it since I started -I'll put it
like this. Honey, will you stop up your
ears," he said motioning to the young
lady standing next to him.
"About all the sons of bitches I
knowed was the ones that I used to deal
with when I made liquor and had a hard
way to go. You know what I mean. Cross
ya up. Try to make a dollar of ya. Really,
though, people been nice to me."
The Georgia-born corn-pone king of
hootenanny humor, simple Junior
Samples, 45-year-old star of television's
"Hee-Haw" show, delivered this coarse
but naturalistic and purely honest sample
of his personality during a moment of
relaxation in his dressing room after
giving an afternoon performance last
Sunday at the Daniel Boone
Amphitheater off 1-85 in Hillsborough.
The 300-pound former farmer, sawmill
hand, carpenter, moonshine whiskey
runner, and stock-car race driver (known
then as Pulpwood Pete in car number 99)
had performed well with his standard act
of Hee-Haw malapropisms ("Bet y'all
didn't know I could say
'trigernomertry.'") and pure country
jokes and quips ("All o' my folks has
always drunk liquor, and I come from a
line o' long livers. I had one uncle 'at had
a liver three feet long.").
The crowd which came to see Junior
on a bill of country music with Tater
Tate and the Shenandoah Cut-Ups, Glenn
Thompson, and the Grand Ole Opry's
Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain
Boys, was disappointingly small, but
Junior consoled himself.
"I've been a-havin' good crowds
everywhere I went, and I worked eleven
fair dates last year and I got seven
standing ovations when I walked out on
the stage. You can't beat that. Folks love
ya, and o' course I love ever'body. I ain't
got no reason to hate nobody."
Since "Hee-Haw" propelled him into
the stardom spotlight, though, beginning
in 1969, honest, people-loving Junior,
who never advanced past the fifth grade,
has experienced quite a complicated
change in his life, and he acknowledges
that now he finds people's idolatry of
him a bit irritating.
"They's just too many of them. You
don't get no rest. 0' course, these folks
has made me. I realize their point o' view,
ya know, ya gotta be two different
people. But this here bein' the second is
the hard thing t'accomplish. It's a rough
life to live."
He shifted his 5W frame on the
chair, tugged at the suspenders of his
Liberty-labelled overalls, wiped -way
some sweat (85-degree weather), and
adjusted his orange socks. Junior was
relaxed, and he began rambling.
"Yeah, it's been rough. I think I'd a
been happier-we had a colored
TV-we'd've accomplished a lot, me and
my wife Grace, if they'd of just left me
alone and I'd never got into this."
Would he have preferred that to the
limelight of television guest appearances,
recording contracts, public performances',
state fairs, or possibly even Las Vegas,
("I've had offers to work at Las Vegas
but my manager says I'm not ready. I
don't know what it takes to be ready.")?
"No, I don't think so. Now I have
plenty of money to spend. If I buy a
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quart of liquor I get it off on taxes for
entertainment, anything like that, you
know (and back there I had to drink oP
white liquor). I made a bunch o' money
last year but I paid a bunch o' taxes and
last year I flew 200,000 miles and I drove
about 47,000-and that's lots o' miles- a
lot o' water under the bridge ..."
Then he tackled the question.
"I wanna tell ya ya feel like that if
you'd a been left alone you woulda been
better off and I guess I probably would
have but yet anybody 'at's ever been into
it just don't know how good it feels to
know that you're hot, ya know."
And everyone has to agree that Junior
is certainly still "hot."
Even though his ladder to success,
"Hee-Haw," was cancelled last March
along with thirteen country shows ("I
think it's the wors' thing 'at ever
happened to CBS."). "Hee-Haw" will
return through private syndication over
about 300 stations in the fall.
Junior is optimistic about the
immediate prospects but he has his own
plans for the future.
"I'd love to work two more years. I'll
pay for my house this year if nothin'
happens, and then 1 wanna work two
more years, and then I wanna fish the res'
of my life."
Will he move to the city after these
"Me? Well, let me put it to ya like this
here. I ain't a-gonna answer that question
direct. They's two times when 1 enjoy
myself the best of anything in the
Staff photo by Johnny iindahl
"And that's a-when I'm a-fishin' and I
fish this way all the time, by myself. I got
me a little boat and I go down and fish at
night and I set there and fish all night and
then I sleep in the daytime," by myself.
And there's but one more time that I'm
real happy, and that's when I'm on my
tractor and it-a-runnin' and they ain't
nobody can talk to me or nuttin'. I'm just
Junior Samples, "Hee-Haw's" greatest
superstar, smiled contentedly, but some
reason, his conscience and honesty got
the better of him and he repeated that he
still would not trade anything for the
years of star experience.
For the third time of the afternoon
(twice in the interview and once during
the show), he said "I just didn't realize
they's as many nice people in the world."