Sunday September 26, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Beverly Hillbillies
On this Day:
In 1962, the TV comedy series “The Beverly Hillbillies” premiered on CBS.
The Beverly Hillbillies is an American television sitcom that was broadcast on CBS from 1962 to 1971. It had an ensemble cast featuring Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, Donna Douglas, and Max Baer Jr. as the Clampetts, a poor, backwoods family from the hills of the Ozarks, who move to posh Beverly Hills, California, after striking oil on their land. The show was produced by Filmways and was created by Paul Henning. It was followed by two other Henning-inspired “country cousin” series on CBS: Petticoat Junction and its spin-off Green Acres, which reversed the rags-to-riches, country-to-city model of The Beverly Hillbillies.
The Beverly Hillbillies ranked among the top 20 most-watched programs on television for eight of its nine seasons, ranking as the #1 series of the year during its first two seasons, with 16 episodes that still remain among the 100 most-watched television episodes in American history. It accumulated seven Emmy nominations during its run. It remains in syndicated reruns, and its ongoing popularity spawned a 1993 film adaptation by 20th Century Fox.
The series starts with Jed Clampett, an impoverished and widowed hillbilly living alongside an oil-rich swamp with his daughter and mother-in-law, discovering oil while shooting at a rabbit. A surveyor for the OK Oil Company realizes the size of the oil field, and the company pays him a fortune for the right to drill on his land. Patriarch Jed’s cousin Pearl Bodine prods him to move to California after being told his modest property could yield $25 million (equivalent to $214 million in 2020), and pressures him into taking her son Jethro along. The family moves into a mansion in wealthy Beverly Hills, California, next door to Jed’s banker, Milburn Drysdale, and his wife, Margaret, who has zero tolerance for hillbillies.
The Clampetts bring a moral, unsophisticated, and minimalistic lifestyle to the swanky, sometimes self-obsessed and superficial community. Double entendres and cultural misconceptions are the core of the sitcom’s humor. Plots often involve Drysdale’s outlandish efforts to keep the Clampetts’ money in his bank, and his wife’s efforts to rid the neighborhood of “those hillbillies”. The family’s periodic attempts to return to the mountains are often prompted by Granny’s perceiving a slight from one of the “city folk”.
The Beverly Hillbillies received generally poor reviews from contemporary critics. The New York Times called the show “strained and unfunny”; Variety called it “painful to sit through”. Film professor Janet Staiger writes that “the problem for these reviewers was that the show confronted the cultural elite’s notions of quality entertainment.” The show did receive a somewhat favorable review from noted critic Gilbert Seldes in the December 15, 1962 TV Guide: “The whole notion on which The Beverly Hillbillies is founded is an encouragement to ignorance… But it is funny. What can I do?”
Regardless of the poor reviews, the show shot to the top of the Nielsen ratings shortly after its premiere and stayed there for several seasons. During its first two seasons, it was the number-one program in the U.S; during its second season, it earned some of the highest ratings ever recorded for a half-hour sitcom. The season-two episode “The Giant Jackrabbit” also became the most-watched telecast up to the time of its airing, and remains the most-watched half-hour episode of a sitcom, as well. The series enjoyed excellent ratings throughout its run, although it had fallen out of the top 20 most-watched shows during its final season.
In 1997, the season-three episode “Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood” was ranked number 62 on “TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time” (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
Milburn Drysdale died and was born again as a hillbilly. It was a case of reintarnation…
Second, a Song:
Today is a two-fer.
The Beverly Hillbillies’ show’s theme song, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett”, was written by producer and writer Paul Henning and originally performed by bluegrass artists Foggy Mountain Boys, led by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. The song is sung by Jerry Scoggins (backed by Flatt and Scruggs) over the opening and end credits of each episode. Flatt and Scruggs subsequently cut their own version of the theme (with Flatt singing) for Columbia Records; released as a single, it reached number 44 on Billboard Hot 100 pop music chart and number one on the Billboard Hot Country chart (the lone country chart-topper for the duo).
Perry Botkin Jr., who composed the score for Murder by Contract, composed many songs for The Beverly Hillbillies, e.g., “Elly May’s Theme.” Botkin’s upbeat tune from Murder by Contract, played during scenes of sunny LA, signaled scenes at the Commerce Bank of Beverly Hills.
The six main cast members participated on a 1963 Columbia soundtrack album, which featured original song numbers in character. Additionally, Ebsen, Ryan, and Douglas each made a few solo recordings following the show’s success, including Ryan’s 1966 novelty single, “Granny’s Miniskirt”.
The series generally features no country music beyond the bluegrass banjo theme song, although country star Roy Clark and the team of Flatt and Scruggs occasionally play on the program. Pop singer Pat Boone appears in one episode as himself, under the premise that he hails from the same area of the country as the Clampetts, although Boone is a native of Jacksonville, Florida.
The 1989 film UHF featured a “Weird Al” Yankovic parody music video, “Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies*”, combining “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” and English rock band Dire Straits’ 1985 hit song “Money for Nothing”.
Here is Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys performing The Beverly Hillbillies Opening and Closing Theme from 1962 – 1971 in color and in HD video. I hope you enjoy this!
Alfred Matthew “Weird Al” Yankovic (born October 23, 1959) is an American singer, musician, record producer, and actor who is known for humorous songs that make light of pop culture and often parody specific songs by contemporary musical acts. He also performs original songs that are style pastiches of the work of other acts, as well as polka medleys of several popular songs, most of which feature his trademark accordion.
Since having a comedy song aired in 1976, Yankovic has sold more than 12 million albums (as of 2007), recorded more than 150 parody and original songs, and performed more than 1,000 live shows. His work has earned him five Grammy Awards and a further 11 nominations, four gold records, and six platinum records in the U.S. His first top ten Billboard album (Straight Outta Lynwood) and single (“White & Nerdy”) were both released in 2006, nearly three decades into his career. His latest album, Mandatory Fun (2014), became his first No. 1 album during its debut week.
Yankovic’s success comes in part from his effective use of music videos to further parody pop culture, the song’s original artist, and the original music videos themselves, scene-for-scene in some cases. He directed later videos himself and went on to direct for other artists, including Ben Folds, Hanson, the Black Crowes, and the Presidents of the United States of America. With the decline of music television and the onset of social media, he used YouTube and other video sites to publish his videos; this strategy helped to boost sales of his later albums. He has stated that he may forgo traditional albums in favor of timely releases of singles from the 2010s onwards.
In addition to recording his albums, Yankovic wrote and starred in the film UHF (1989) and the television series The Weird Al Show (1997). He has also made guest appearances and performed voice acting roles on many television shows and video web content, in addition to starring in Al TV specials on MTV. He has also written two children’s books, When I Grow Up (2011) and My New Teacher and Me! (2013).
Dire Straits were a British rock band formed in London in 1977 by Mark Knopfler (lead vocals and lead guitar), David Knopfler (rhythm guitar and backing vocals), John Illsley (bass guitar and backing vocals), and Pick Withers (drums and percussion). They were active from 1977 to 1988 and again from 1991 to 1995.
Their first single, “Sultans of Swing”, from their 1978 self-titled debut album, reached the top ten in the UK and US charts. It was followed by hit singles including “Romeo and Juliet” (1981), “Private Investigations” (1982), “Twisting by the Pool” (1983), “Money for Nothing” (1985), and “Walk of Life” (1985). Their most commercially successful album, Brothers in Arms (1985), has sold more than 30 million copies; it was the first album to sell a million copies on compact disc, and is the eighth-bestselling album in UK history. According to the Guinness Book of British Hit Albums, Dire Straits have spent over 1,100 weeks on the UK albums chart, the fifth most of all time.
Dire Straits’ sound draws from various influences including country, folk, the blues rock of J. J. Cale, and jazz. Their stripped-down sound contrasted with punk rock and demonstrated a roots rock influence that emerged from pub rock. There were several changes in personnel, with Mark Knopfler and Illsley being the only members who lasted from the beginning of the band’s existence, to the end. After their first breakup in 1988, Knopfler told Rolling Stone: “A lot of press reports were saying we were the biggest band in the world. There’s not an accent then on the music, there’s an accent on popularity. I needed a rest.” They disbanded for good in 1995, after which Knopfler launched a solo career full-time. He has since declined reunion offers.
Called “the biggest British rock band of the 80s” by Classic Rock magazine, their 1985–1986 world tour, which included a performance at Live Aid in July 1985, set a record in Australasia. Their final world tour from 1991 to 1992 sold 7.1 million tickets. Dire Straits won four Grammy Awards, three Brit Awards (Best British Group twice), two MTV Video Music Awards, and various other awards. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. Dire Straits have sold an estimated 100 million units worldwide, including 51.4 million certified units, making them one of the best-selling music artists.
Here is Weird Al Yankovic’s parody music video, “Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies*”, where he mashed up “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” with English rock band Dire Straits’ 1985 hit song “Money for Nothing”. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
Granny: “Elly May done popped the buttons off her shirt again.”
Jed Clampett: “Elly May carries herself proud with her shoulders throwed back.”
Granny: “It ain’t her shoulders that have been poppin’ these buttons.”
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky