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‘Hee Haw’ co-creator and producer Sam Lovullo dies

LOS ANGELES — Sam Lovullo, who as producer and co-creator of “Hee Haw” brought country music and homestyle humor to millions of American homes, has died at age 88, his publicists said Thursday.

Lovullo died peacefully at his home in the Encino neighborhood of Los Angeles on Thursday, publicists the Brokaw Company said. No immediate cause of death was given, but Lovullo had been suffering from heart disease.

Lovullo worked on TV’s “The Jonathan Winters Show” from 1967 and 1969. He and two writers from the show noticed that it enjoyed a ratings spike when country music guests were on.

They conceived of “Hee Haw,” the variety show that ran for two years on CBS starting in 1969 and went on to a 21-year run in syndication. Lovullo was producer for all but the last five years.

The show affectionately made light of rural culture, featuring country bumpkins and scantily clad farmer’s daughters, but was actually produced in Nashville and featured music from country legends like Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn, who usually donned the same overalls as the cast and got in on the jokes. Its hosts, Buck Owens and Roy Clark, were themselves country music luminaries before the show began.

He was an Italian-American native of Los Angeles, but “Hee Haw” made Lovullo a beloved hometown figure in Nashville. In 1974 the Academy of Country Music gave him its Jim Reeves Memorial Award, for people who contribute to the acceptance of country music.

Lovullo would write a memoir about his time on the show, “Life in the Kornfield My 25 Years at Hee Haw,” which takes its name from the show’s fictitious home Kornfield Kounty.

He is survived by his wife and four children.

His son Torey Lovullo is a former Major League Baseball player who was recently named manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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