When we last visited Kornfield Kounty, Archie was trimming hair and spinning tales in the barbershop. Aunt Pearl was greeting people with her ear-splitting yell, the crows were cawing in the cornfield and Junior Samples was fending off the amorous advances of the Gossip Gals.
This weekend, Nov. 17, 18 and 19, the gang is back with more singing, jokes and family humor as “Kornfield Kounty’s Merry Mirth” hits the stage at the DeLozier Theater.
“It’s corny fun,” Ann Pugh said.
Ann was the director of Heartland Community Theatre’s “Salute to Kornfield Kounty” in 2022, and has assembled a new script for the show. This time, the performance is directed by Marty Morgan, and staged under the moniker “Big Mo Productions” as a fund-raiser to renovate the backstage of the DeLozier Building theater.
“Kornfield Kounty’s Merry Mirth” is a spin-off of a country-music variety show that aired on CBS from 1969 to 1971 and starred Buck Owens and Roy Clark. The fictional location of the TV show was Kornfield Kounty, with performers popping up in the cornfield to exchange jokes, and crows providing the laugh track.
After 1971, the show was produced for another 21 years for other markets and lived on in syndication and spin-offs, becoming a rural cult classic. Many of the performers were Grand Ole Opry stars, including Louis Marshall Jones, aka Grandpa Jones, who played clawhammer banjo and sang gospel and old-time country. Grandpa Jones was known for his lengthy answers to the question ‘What’s for Dinner, Grandpa?” a routine that will be revived in the show by Bill McCoy.
The Clinton show has a cast of 11, counting musicians. As well as channeling Grandpa, Bill McCoy will play guitar. Music Director Jim Lower is on lead guitar. Clyde Pugh is handling the sound boards.
Ann Pugh reprises her role as the over-eager Minnie, and cuts loose on “Grandma’s Feather Bed,” the John Denver song about the bed that was nine feet high, six feet wide and soft as a downy chick. Returning members of the cast are Beth Henderson, Tracy Fonke and Hailey Coleman. New to this production are Denise Owsley, Chris Modlin, David Lee, Natalee Newman and Julie Morgan.
Although he’s not playing the character, former Clinton police officer Chris Modlin nails the laconic delivery of laid-back country bumpkin Junior Samples.
This is the third time the backdrop of Kornfield Kounty has been used since it was painted by Randy Day 30 years ago for “The Grand Ole Hayride,” a show staged during Olde Glory Days in a tent on the Square, Ann said.
“Kornfield Kounty’s Merry Mirth” incorporates ‘new’ jokes, groaners and songs familiar to fans of the original show. A quartet will perform the gleefully sardonic “Gloom, Despair and Agony On Me,” and Ann and Chris will deliver “Where-Oh-Where Are You Tonight?”.
The Gossip Girls will join forces for “We’re Not the Kind To Go Round Spreading Gossip,” (so you better listen close the first time). Instead of the barber shop, the snipping and gossiping will take place at the beauty shop, Marty said.
The second half of the show will incline towards the coming holidays.
“We’ll be sharing some korny Christmas as well as honoring the season with some beautiful vocals,” Ann said.
David Lee, former news director at KDKD FM, will take the KORN microphone as kooky Charlie Farquharson. David will also read “The 12 Days of Christmas” and “The Christmas Guest.”
White Christmas” ends the show.
People who remember the variety show will recall the characters, routines and songs. People who have never seen it can review some of the classic Kornfield Kounty skits on YouTube.
And if one joke doesn’t make you laugh, they’ll be another one along in a minute.
On the corner of West Franklin and Washington, the 1887 DeLozier Building was the Henry County Bank and post office. It’s now part of the Henry County Museum and arts complex, and has two large downstairs rooms and a kitchen, which are rented for reunions, receptions and weddings. The stage has hosted puppet shows, St. Nicholas, Civil War speakers and vintage fashion shows.
Kornfield County’s Merry Mirth is at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, Nov. 17 and 18, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Nov. 19. Tickets are $10, and are available at the Henry County Museum, 203 W. Franklin, the Clinton Chamber of Commerce, 200 S. Main St.
Tickets are also available at the Barbery Center, 103 E. Franklin, where Jim Lower, who is a real barber, cuts hair.