Archie Campbell honored with Music Pathways marker

Legendary Country Music comedian Archie Campbell was honored with a marker as part of the Tennessee Music Pathways project Friday morning in downtown Bulls Gap. Pictured from left: Archie’s grandson, Chase Campbell; son Phil Campbell; nieces Freida Sempkowski and Joyce Barnett; and great-great nephew Elijah Carmack. Campbell’s homeplace can be seen in the background.

To have Archie Campbell honored with one of the Tennessee Music Pathways markers was certainly appropriate.

Campbell, a country-music legend who was one of two original writers and a performer on the “Hee Haw” TV show, always called Bulls Gap home frequently mentioning his hometown to a national audience until his death in 1987.

Friday, Campbell’s legacy was recognized with the revealing of the Tennessee Music Pathways marker on Main Street between Bulls Gap Town Hall and the relocated Archie Campbell Homeplace.

“I always took part in the Archie Campbell Days,” Phil Campbell. “I think this (plaque) will be a lasting memory. That’s why I’m so grateful to the state for this program, because not only are these markers really nice, but they are very entertaining. There’s so much interest in the country music business. People come from all over the world, now they have the opportunity to visit places where these people grew up where they formed their talent, like my father.”

Phil Campbell said that some Tennessee small towns were involved in this particular program, established by Gov. Bill Lee when he took office in 2019.

“I think there will be a considerable amount of people who will want to go through Tennessee, use the guide and go to these spots. This is the kind of tourism we are looking for now,” Campbell said. “We’ve had people grouped together in the Smoky Mountains for a long time. It’s time to spread out a little bit.”

While many watched “Hee Haw” in its prime, a new generation is discovering the show on networks such as RFD-TV and the new Circle network runs the shows two or three times a day.

“Hee Haw was required viewing at our house,” Campbell cracked. “It will never lose its revelency. It’s archaic, something you can always go back to. That was the whole secret with Hee Haw from the beginning. It was one of the few things that came on TV that was clean. You could take your kids and your grandmother and sit them down at the TV. Hee Haw was okay, no one was going to get offended”

Also at the ceremony was Archie’s grandson, Chase. He was three years old when Archie passed away. Chase is the College and Young Adult Pastor at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church in Knoxville.

“I have some vague memories of him,” Chase said. “He used to take me on golf cart rides. I’ve gotten to know him mostly through other people’s stories. So many people had personal stories. He loved talking and interacting with them. Everyone loves to tell me those stories. It’s like I’ve gotten to know him a little bit at a time through everyone else’s experience.”

Chase said that this type of history regarding his grandfather is something right now that people can take a lot of inspiration in.

“When he left home, it was in the middle of the Great Depression,” Chase said. “He wanted to be a painter, but he did what he could and become an entertainer. He found a way to inspire people during a difficult time. That’s the type of history we can take and use very practically.”

The large picture of Archie on the plaque was his favorite publicity photo over the years, according to Phil. A smaller picture with Archie is a promotions photo in character for “Hee Haw.”

The ceremony held outside Bulls Gap Town Hall featured Melanie Beauchamp, assistant tourism commissioner for rural tourism and outreach.

“We realized that we have so much country music history between people, places and pioneers of music that we needed to showcase that. Our brand is “Soundtrack of America: Made in Tennessee.” Music is the thread of so many things throughout the state, but really, in every single county there is music,” she said. “We started 2018 identifying different places and people. We have attractions highlighted and a website that highlights places you can go that tell a story.”

Beauchamp said that there are seven different genres of music that can be traced to Tennessee, blues, bluegrass, rockabilly, rock, soul, gospel and country. She said that places aren’t necessarily historic markers, but can be such art as murals. “The marker is to help to tie the traveler to this area. That’s really the intent of the program. The program has a start, but it doesn’t have a stop,” she said. “There are hundreds of stories we can do.”

Beauchamp said it takes a long time to get clearance and go through the process to actually get one into the ground. There are 15 plaques in the ground right now, but the goal is to get at least one in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties.

“To get one in the ground is exciting. We have a whole bunch, around 30, that have been produced, but COVID-19 has halted that,” she said. “We are now in production on Phase II markers.”

Beauchamp said the Tennessee Pathways Project will be an ongoing project.

“You have new artists coming on every day,” she said. “You have a mixture of new artists and songwriters of all types. Executive Director of the Rogersville/Hawkins County Chamber of Commerce Nancy Barker was excited that Bulls Gap was chosen for the first Tennessee Music Pathways marker in Hawkins County.

“We are excited that Bulls Gap has been officially included in our statewide Tennessee Music Pathways Program. The town of Bulls Gap has worked very hard to honor their native son, through the Archie Campbell Museum, adding the Tennessee Music Pathway marker will give them additional opportunity to bring visitors into the community,” Barker said. “We are very appreciative of the Tennessee Department of Tourism for partnering with us to make this possible.”

Archie Campbell is remembered for his roles on the long-running “Hee Haw” TV series. He, along with Gordie Tapp, were hired as original writers for the show in 1969 when it premiered on CBS. Campbell’s recurring characterizations included “The Barber” where he began the “That’s good, that’s bad” routine and also popularized spoonerisms. He also appeared as “Dr. Campbell” and “Justus O’ Peace.” He also began using the “Pfft, You Were Gone” routine as one of the show’s recurring set pieces.

Early in Campbell’s career, he had a spot on WNOX radio’s “Midday Merry-Go-Round” in Knoxville. Campbell was hired by the Grand Ole Opry as a comedian on its networked “Prince Albert” segment. Campbell had some comedy records, including his best known “Trouble in the Amen Corner” in 1960, and “Bull Session in Bulls Gap” with Junior Samples, another Hee-Haw star.

For video on Friday’s ceremony, go to citizentribune.com.