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Hee Haw Comedian Jim Hager


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'Hee Haw' Comedian Jim Hager

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Jim Hager

NASHVILLE, Tennessee -- Jim Hager, one of The Hager Twins who satirized country life with cornball one-liners as original cast members of the TV show, "Hee Haw," died Thursday, May 1, of an apparent heart attack, the show's producer said. He was 66.

Hager was at a Nashville coffee shop when he collapsed, said producer Sam Lovullo, quoting Jon Hager, the surviving twin. According to family friend Adam Dread, Jim was found slumped over on in the parking lot of the Frothy Monkey coffeehouse. He was pronounced dead at Vanderbilt University Medical Center around 6 p.m., said Bill Snyder, a Vanderbilt spokesman.

The twins, who also were guitarists and drummers, rose to national fame when the show started in 1969. The show was a huge hit, offering a mix of music and country-flavored humor. The fast-paced use of one-liners was inspired by "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" -- but with a rural twist.

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The Hager Brothers, (far right), with the full cast of the

popular country comedy show, 'Hee Haw'

"People laughed at themselves," Jim Hager said in a 1988 Associated Press interview. "They liked the chemistry on the show and the fast pace." The jokes "were not all platinum," Jim Hager said. "The writers count on the person delivering the line to pull it off. It was cornball, no denying it."

The Hagers had worked with country star Buck Owens and used his connection to join "Hee Haw" when Owens and Roy Clark signed as hosts of the show. The Hagers left the program in the mid-1980s and continued to perform shows together. "They still maintained that youthful look and carried on like young people," Lovullo said.

The identical twins were born August 30, 1946 in Chicago, Illinois and adopted by Jack and Frances Hager, a Methodist minister and a schoolteacher. The brothers were then raised in Park Ridge, a Chicago, Illinois suburb. The Hager brothers first sang in the church choir.

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The Hager Brothers . . . Then and Now

They attended Maine Township High School, Park Ridge, Illinois, Class of 1959, one year ahead of Harrison Ford and a few more years ahead of Hillary Rodham. They showed a natural flair for comedy and were regular performers on a weekly Saturday morning program for teenagers on WGN-TV in Chicago.

As with many other show business personalities, the Hager brothers' age and birthday somehow changed as they grew older. But they still looked good in their sixties. According to their website, the brothers served in the United States Army together and performed at Officers' Clubs and NCO Clubs throughout the United States and Europe.

After leaving the military, the Hager brothers moved to California and performed at various nightclubs around Los Angeles including Ledbetter's Night Club with such noted contemporary folk acts as The Carpenters, The New Christy Minstrels, John Denver, Steve Martin and Kenny Rogers.

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The Hager Brothers with Co-Host Florence Henderson on the set

of TNN's 'Country Kitchen'

They soon found regular work performing at Disneyland, which is where Buck Owens saw them perform and signed them to contracts. In addition to Owens, the brothers served as opening acts for Country Greats Tex Ritter, Wynn Stewart, Billie Jo Spears and Lefty Frizzell.

While in California, The Hager Brothers signed a recording contract with Capitol Records in 1969 and hit the country charts with "Gotta Get To Oklahoma ('Cause California's Gettin' To Me)." In all, they recorded six albums--three for Capitol, two for Elektra-Asylum and one for Barnaby Records.

The brothers were featured in the second preview issue of Playgirl Magazine, February, 1973. In 1976, Jim and Jon starred, with Lillian Gish, as Tony and Shep Thomas in the TV-movie Twin Detectives. They also appeared in TV commercials and with Florence Henderson in TNN's "Country Kitchen."

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On the 1976 set of 'The Bionic Woman' (L-R): Jon Hager, Lindsay

Wagner, unknown producer, Jim Hager and a young Helen Hunt

Their TV appearances also included the original "The Bionic Woman," starring Lindsay Wagner. In the February 11, 1978 episode, "Sanctuary Earth," Jim and Jon played Verm and Dier, respectively. Their characters were cloned detectives.

"Jim was a delightful, funny, loyal friend," said longtime "Hee Haw" cast member Lulu Roman, who also lives in Nashville. "He will be missed greatly as one of my true friends. He and Jon were a dynamic and extremely talented duo. I pray for his family."

The Hager Brothers said in 1988 that they had been together all their lives except for 3-1/2 years when Jon left Los Angeles and moved to Nashville. Jim eventually followed.

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  • 5 weeks later...

OMG! I've just read about this.....I had no idea Jim had died! Growing up in Bakersfield CA I got to see a lot of Buck Owens and the Hee Haw gang. I've probably seen Jim and Jon Hager 10-15 times. I loved to talk to them....they were very friendly and enjoyed talking to fans. They were so funny too....they'd joke in between songs. I was just a kid but I had a big crush on both of them. I couldn't make up my mind who I was going to marry! I'm so sad right now!

:pixiedust:

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