Year Born: 1922
Tapp, Gordie (1922- )
Gordie Tapp was once introduced as the world’s finest storyteller. It was an art he developed while hosting Country Hoedown, the Canadian variety show which prepared him for CBS’s Hee Haw which made him an international figure.
Country Hoedown replaced the Saturday night show On Camera in 1956. It moved to Friday night later that year and ran until 1965.
It was on Country Hoedown that Gordie invented the smoothie character Gaylord and the hayseed Cousin Clem, whom he took later into Hee Haw.
The seeds of Country Hoedown were planted in the early days of CHML Hamilton. Tom Darling, who managed CHML for several years, recollected Gordie’s start on the country scene in The Birth of Radio in Canada by Bill McNeil and Morris Wolfe. The station carried live broadcasts of orchestras playing at local hotels, and did “all kinds of small groups, including a lot of country and western stuff,” said Tom in a later reminiscence. He asked Gordie Tapp to host one program called Main Street Jamboree.
Gordie had attended the Lorne Green School of Broadcasting, joined CJOY Guelph as an announcer, then moved on to CHML. He was reluctant to take on Main Street Jamboree, but he did. Tom Darling said: “We put that show on in auditoriums all over Ontario. It made for great radio and it went on for years.”
From CHML, Gordie went on to spend more than 13 years with CBC Radio and TV, mostly hosting Country Hoedown. It was finally replaced by the Tommy Hunter Show – Tommy Hunter had appeared on Country Hoedown with King Ganam and his Sons of the West and also as one of the winners of a CBC-TV talent contest called Pick the Stars.
Gordie went to Nashville and CBS’s Hee Haw, which had its debut in 1969 hosted by Buck Owens and Roy Clark, and ran until 1993. Ironically, CBS purged it along with all other country shows after one year, then watched as it was picked up independently in syndication across the U.S. and all over the world to become the longest running country variety show in American television history.
Also on the show were Don Harron who played Charlie Farquaharson, a radio announcer on station KORN, and Archie Campbell, who played an old doctor. Gordie, Don and Archie were writers for the show as well as characters in it.
Gordie Tapp was awarded the Order of Canada in 1998 for his years of unpaid work for medical charities, and the Order of Ontario in 1999. He chaired the Canadian muscular dystrophy campaign for years and raised funds for Easter Seals, the U.S. Shriners’ hospitals for children and the Canadian Tim Horton Foundation for Children. He was also elected to the Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Fame.
Written by Jerry Fairbridge – December, 2002