Pros: Great songs performed like they were on your front porch.
Cons: Don't expect perfection. They get a little pitchy.
No doubt the Hee Haw show will go down in history as one of the most historic syndicated programs in the annals of television. Producer Sam Lovullo happened by a dressing room one day while they were in production of the show and heard Buck Owens, Roy Clark, Grandpa Jones, Kenny Price, Archie Campbell, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Merle Travis swopping stories and then picking up the guitar and singing some old gospel standards. The sound was magical with those tight harmonies. Grandpa Jones had been urging the producer to include traditional four-part quartet singing in the show. When Lovullo heard them sing, he knew this would go over well with the audience. Wow, was he right.
Grandpa, Roy, Kenny and Buck made up the original Hee Haw Gospel Quartet. The intention was to present front porch shape note, harmonies to the audience. Just using Clark on the guitar, the four harmonized on old gospel standards.
This Time-Life collection is a two CD collection of some of the favorites from the show. Charles McCardell has written excellent liner notes for the collection telling about the groups formation, who has been a part of the Quartet through the years, and where they found their songs. It is unusual to have such information about song writers contained in liner notes. Their inclusion brings even deeper value to the collection. Mike Jason produced the compilation with Jerry Kennedy doing some of the tracks and additional dubbing done at Masterlink on some tracks.
Additional instrumentation has been added on some songs. Some of the additional sound is part of the original songs, others have been added. The compilation was done in 2006 by Gaylord Program Services in cooperation with Time-Life. Additional musicians include Gordon Kennedy, Jerry Kennedy, Mike Leech, Glen Duncan, Sonny Garrish, Hargus Pig Robbins, Charlie McCoy, Pete Drake, Henry Strzelecki, Wanda Vick, and Tony Migliore.
No doubt the comforting sounds of these four talented entertainers were never intended to project vocal excellence. They reflect, however, the soulful sounds of many a front porch on a Sunday afternoon as family and friends would gather to sing some favorite hymns. Or the small church in the valley where just a guitar and fiddle were available to accompany the frill voices of the congregation. While its not perfect, there is a many a Sunday morning I have awakened and readied myself for services while listening to my friends singing. And that is how we all felt about these four they were our friends. Enjoy.
The songs, the writers
**Jesus Hold My Hand. Written by legendary lyricist Albert E. Brumley, this song is noted for its echoing parts. Clark does a superb job on the tenor which is a difficult part on this song.
**Camping in Canaans Land. Bring on the base echo from Price on this Brumley classic.
**Shall We Gather at the River. Robert Lowery wrote this song during a severely hot day of preaching. He thought the river might provide some comfort. This cover was arranged by Sam Lovullo.
**Turn Your Radio On. From Brumleys days with the Stamp Baxter Music group, this favored song has been recorded by many artists. This rendition of it is just excellent.
**A Beautiful Life. This is actually where I learned to sing this William Golden penned song. I had forgotten that Golden was in prison when he penned this song. The echoing of the alto and bass is excellently done by Jones and Price. Price does a great job of lead on the chorus.
**Just Over in Glory Land. James Acuff and Emmett Dean wrote the spirited hymn that is here performed with enthusiasm. The picking on this song is great.
**Amazing Grace. The John Newton classic begins with the haunting harmonica of the great Charlie McCoy.
**Love Lifted Me. James Rowe and Howard Smith crafted this song in 1912. Over half a century later, the Hee Haw Quartet singing with the lightness intended.
**Dust on the Bible. A favorite of the old country singers, this song was written by the Bailes brothers which they recorded back in 1945. This rendition is very faithful to the original recording.
**Empty Mansions. This was my fathers favorite song, and we had it sung at his funeral service. I love the wonderful meaning of this song. While this version of the Daryl Hutchins song is always smooth, it is comforting.
**Where Could I Go. James Coats wrote this classic. The performance here may be as good as any on the project. Their harmonies are just tight! You will never hear tenor any better performed than Clark does on this song.
**In The Garden. Charles Austin Miles, a former pharmacist, wrote this beautiful, lilting song that is here performed well. This song is so soothing. Im just not sure it can be done badly.
**Only One Step More. Jesse Randall Baxter (author of Precious Memories and Farther Along) penned this great country/gospel song. Price does a great job with the base of this meaningful song.
**Rockin on the Waves. Grandpa Jones had already recorded this song as part of the Browns Ferry Four in the 1940s. But this song has a long history. The Speers have a rocking version of this great little ditty on one of their CDs. Brock Speer tells the story that Pop Speer use to teach them shaped notes by making the children actually sing the note name on this song. Great four part harmony.
**When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder. This is one of the most performed songs in the hymnal. A perennial favorite with all audiences, this very meaningful James Black song was written in memory of one of his Sunday School children who missed roll call because she had gone on to be with the Lord.
**Gone Home. Gone Home was a big hit for Jumping Bill Carlisle, one of the funniest entertainers to ever grace the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. (I got to do a show once with him. He was a riot.) Carlisle joins the Hee Haw Quartet to perform his wonderful, penned song.
**The Glory Land Way. This song is a rousing rendition of the very popular J. S. Torbett song. It is incorrectly credited to Bill Monroe in the liner notes. Monroe did not write this song.
**When They Ring Those Golden Bells. Dion De Marbelle wrote this wonderful old song. He had served in the civil war and also accompanied Buffalo Bill Cody on his Wild West Show. This blessed number is well done by our quartet.
**Will You Meet Me over Yonder. This R. E. Winsett song has a definite mountain feel. There is great movement in the song.
**When I Get to the End of the Way. Charles Tillman wrote this song. It isnt one of my favorites, but it has impressive lyrics. Grandpa has a lead part in this song, but doesnt deliver very well. He was a bit wobbly on the key.
**No Tears in Heaven. Robert Arnold wrote this song back in 1935. This is an old Stamps Baxter song. Still a favorite it is performed here by Clark, Jones, Price and Babcock and come from the period after Buck Owens had left Hee Haw.
**His Boundless Love. This old Luther Presley is well done here with Babcock singing the lead. This is one of the better numbers on the second disc.
**Theres A Hand Thats A-Waiting. This great lyrical number was actually written by Grandpa Jones. The harmonies are great, but the Clark tenor will give you chills.
**The Unclouded Day. This classic hymn has been performed by countless artists including a great version by Willie Nelson. Written by J. K. Alwood, this song is well done by our troop. Youll also hear some good dobro riffs.
** The Old Country Church. James Vaughn wrote this song which for many of us conjures up many memories of the old white church building in the country. Oh, yes I can see it now. I can still feel those hard pews, too. For me, those memories go back over 40 years.
**Wait a Little Longer, Please Jesus. Hazel Houser wrote this blessed old standard. Carl Smith had a top 20 hit on this song in 1955. This performance is just simply great! This Hee Haw group is Jones, Clark, Burdette, and Babcock.
**Everybody Will Be Happy Over There. E. M. Bartlett wrote this lyrically beautiful, musically challenging song. It has a very difficult base lead in the chorus, which Ray Burdette (who joined after Kenny Price passed away) does a mediocre job on (he needed to be closer to the microphone). Also done by the before mentioned reconstituted group.
**On the Jericho Road. Don McCrossan wrote this back in 1928. The performance here is done by Clark, Jones, Price and Babcock. Babcock and Clark do a great job with the lead. The various echo parts of the chorus are well done. This is a difficult song, but they pull it off well.
**We Are Going Down The Valley. I have always associated this song with funerals and it is just difficult for me to lead this Pounds/Fillmore song. It became a standard Stamps Baxter song. This performance is from the original Hee Haw Quartet and is well done.
**O Come Angel Band. Bradbury and Hascall teamed to write this classic song. The original Hee Haw Quartet does a good job on this song.
Traditional mountain singing that is what the Hee Haw Quartet were all about. This collection of their songs, primarily from the original group, is a lasting tribute to the popularity of that segment of Hee Haw. This was how the show closed each week. Of that original group, only Roy Clark remains. I recently visited the grave of Grandpa Jones, buried on a hillside in Goodlettsville, Tennessee behind an old country church. I thought how appropriate that he be buried here. The popularity of mountain music ebbs and flows. For those of us who were truly fans, the Hee Haw Quartet is a lasting, cherished memory.