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,” has died, the show’s producer said Friday. He was 66.
Hager was at a Nashville coffee shop when he collapsed Thursday, said producer Sam Lovullo, quoting Jon Hager, the surviving twin. Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where Jim Hager had been taken, gave no details on the cause of death.
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.
“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 Friday.
The twins were raised in Park Ridge, a Chicago suburb. They showed a natural flair for comedy and were regular performers on a weekly Saturday morning program for teenagers on WGN-TV in Chicago.
According to their website, they served in the Army together, entertaining on bases at officers’ clubs. They moved to California after leaving the service and found regular work performing at Disneyland and at nightclubs around Los Angeles.
While in California, they signed a recording contract with Capitol Records.
They 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.