Sam Lovullo (1928 – 2017)

Sam Lovullo (1928 - 2017)

Sam Lovullo, producer and creator of the long-running variety TV show “Hee Haw” died Jan. 5 at the age of 88.

Born Salvatore Lovullo in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1928, he moved with his family to Los Angeles at age 16. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Lovullo landed an accounting job at CBS, later rising to manager of business affairs for the network’s West Coast operations. He went on to have a career as a television producer and casting director.

While working as an associate producer on “The Jonathan Winters Show” from 1967-1969, he conceived the idea for “Hee Haw” with some of the show’s other staffers after noticing ratings rose when Country Music performers like Roy Clark, Buck Owens, and Minnie Pearl were booked, according The Hollywood Reporter.

“Hee Haw,” which was produced in Nashville and hosted by Clark and Owens, ran for two years on CBS, beginning in 1969. That was followed by another 21 years in syndication, where it aired in 222 markets and became the No. 1 syndicated show in the nation, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Lovullo was on board as producer for all but the final five years. He later wrote a memoir about his experiences, titled, “Life in the Kornfield: My 25 Years at Hee Haw.”

He was an active member of the CMA Board of Directors from 1975-1985 and produced the CMA 25th anniversary special. Other television credits include TV movie “Swing Out, Sweet Land” (1970), and TV series “Hee Haw Honeys” (1978-79) and “The Nashville Palace” (1980-81), according to his IMDb profile. He also produced comedy-variety TV specials for stars Herb Alpert, The Harlem Globetrotters, Don Knotts, Loretta Lynn, and John Wayne.

Lovullo died at his home in Encino, Calif. No immediate cause of death was revealed, but Lovullo had been suffering from heart disease, according to the Associated Press.

Survivors include his wife, Grace, two brothers, and four children (including Arizona Diamondbacks manager and former Major League Baseball player Torey Lovullo), as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.