Widely considered a pioneer in growth of country music on television, producer and casting director of the iconic Hee Haw television series, Sam Lovullo, died at age 88 Tuesday (Jan. 3).
Living in Encino, California at the time of his death, the 88-year-old was born on Sept. 30, 1928 in Buffalo, New York. At the young age of 15, Lovullo made the move to Los Angeles in pursuit of a career in the entertainment business. The ACM Honoree had his first real gig in the world of entertainment acting as the chief accountant of business affairs for CBS radio and television network.
Flash forward to 1967, he transitioned into the production side of the business when he landed a spot on The Jonathan Winters Show, running from 1967 to 1969. Lovullo ultimately rose to the position of associate producer on the show where he met writers John Aylesworth and Frank Peppiatt. Working close together, the three began to notice the show’s rating would skyrocket whenever country music artists were featured, inciting them to embark on an endeavor of their own.
After the cancellation of The Jonathon Winters Show, the three men pitched an idea for a show to CBS which they inevitably picked up. The show was a country music variety show to be shot in Nashville, Tennessee by the name of Hee Haw. As history would show, Hee Haw ran on CBS from 1969 to 1971 and in syndication up until the year 1992.
Lovullo produced all 86 episodes of the beloved country music variety show in addition to several segments of Hee Haw Honeys and Nashville Palace. In 1974, the Academy of Country Music presented him with the “Jim Reeves Memorial Award” to acknowledge his immense contribution to integration of country music into mainstream culture.
“Lord only knows how many times I would go to the Grand Ole Opry, not to be seen, I’d hide behind the curtains so that I could understand their kind of comedy. To understand what the artists were doing,” shared Lovullo in an interview with Emmy TV Legends. “After a while, it became a habit, and people knew I was doing it. They’d say, ‘come on over and talk to us, Sam.'”
In addition to his work as a producer, he served on the board for both the Country Music Association as well as the board for the Gospel Music Association. Lovullo later chronicled his experience in Music City U.S.A. in his 1996 book, Life in the Kornfield, My 25 Years at Hee Haw.
Lovullo is survived by one son, Torey, who was a former major league baseball player and coach, acting currently as the manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks.