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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

THE GREATEST SONGS IN HUMAN HISTORY: "PFFT YOU WERE GONE"

Gordie Tapp and Archie Campbell, eloquent troubadours of the broken heart.

I've been told over the years that I'm a complete and total failure as a black man for a number of reasons and one of those reasons is my undying love for that paragon of redneck humor, HEE HAW. Inexplicably running from 1969-1992, that weekly show was an hour-long showcase for the country music world's best and brightest to strut their stuff, but while that was all well and good what made me a fan for life were the incredibly lowbrow blasts of cornpone humor that were basically a self-deprecating form of minstrelsy about white folks. My late granddaddy Ozane — himself a self-described "Injun" who was also a Lawrence Welk booster — was the member of my family who turned me on to this stuff (much to my mother's eternal chagrin) and while we both enjoyed the drawled antics of the borderline-mongoloids on display, we laughed our asses off whenever Archie Campbell showed up in farmer gear to sing "Pfft You Were Gone."

Depending on where you look, "Pfft You Were Gone" is credited to Buck Owens, but I'd be willing to bet a finger or two that Archie Campbell came up with it in the first place, by virtue of him having a career as a country music humorist well before HEE HAW as well as him having recorded the song on one of his albums back in 1966, three years before the advent of HEE HAW. And while I do remember Buck Owens singing it a couple of times, it was nearly always Archie Campbell who would give voice to the plaintive lyrics, usually accompanied by Gordie Tapp.

"Pfft You Were Gone" pokes fun at one of the most venerable of country music subjects, namely that of a man being left by his wife for whatever reason, and over the years the song provided a virtual laundry list of causes for the unnamed wife's desertion. And funny though the template version of the song is, it only got better when damned near every guest ever to appear on HEE HAW got a shot at singing along with it. Many were the country stars and Hollywood celebs who donned overalls and stood before that famous picket fence to bemoan being jilted, including Connecticut Eye-Talian Ernest Borgnine,

— yes, I said ERNEST FUCKING BORGNINE!!! — but my personal favorite was when ultra-serious and deep-voiced Ponderosa patriarch Lorne Greene willingly sent his dignity rocketing straight down the bowl by accompanying Campbell.

As the years went by, the lyrics became more and more absurd, and I earnestly hope that some day a triple album will be released of nothing but multiple versions of "Pfft You Were Gone," just so I can sit there and laugh like a moron while wishing Granddaddy Ozane were still with us. Anyway, here are the song's initial lyrics, from which sprouted a musical kudzu of silliness:

Down here on the farm the weather gets messy

Laying around with nothin' to do

When you went away, you took my cow Bessie

I miss her darling, more than I miss you


You took off your leg, your wig and your eye glass

And you shoud've seen the look on my face
I wanted to kiss, I wanted to hug you
But you were scattered all over the place


Chorus: Where, where, are you tonight?
Why did you leave me here all alone?

I searched the world over,
And thought I found true love.
You met another and
Phht! you were gone.

I know that you loved me, here's my way of knowing
The proof's hanging out right there on the line

When I see the snow and feel the wind blowing

Your nightie's hugging them long johns of mine


The noises you made at our supper table

Your habits, my dear, were surely absurd
But how many times do I have to tell you

Soup is a dish to be seen and not heard


Chorus:
Where, oh where, are you tonight?
Why did you leave me here all alone?

I searched the world over,
And thought I found true love.
You met another and
Phht! you were gone.

Remember you phoned me a-sobbin' and cryin'

The dog bit your maw, and drug her around

You said she looked pale and thought she was dying

I said "Don't worry, I'll buy a new hound."

I had six kids and you had eleven
And we had a boy, and they grew like flowers

I wish you'd come back, without you ain't heaven
'Cause your kids and my kids are beatin' up ours

Chorus: Where, oh where, are you tonight?
Why did you leave me here all alone?

I searched the world over, And thought I found true love.
You met another and
Phht! you were gone
I searched the world over,
And thought I found true love.
You met another and
Phht! you were gone...

Johnny Cash joins Archie Campbell: the only possible way to improve upon this perfect song.
(Well, Johnny Cash or Devo. Or maybe the Mentors.)

11 comments:

C said...

Too many Saturdays were spent watching this in the entertainment wasteland of my youth. (Yes, my parents watched the Welk too.)

Sigh....

Nothing like a song that lets you spit at your siblings with full parental consent!

On Smash said...

I thought I was the only ethnic kid watching Hee Haw...thank you

Keep on Picking and a Grinnin

Becton said...

Bunche,

Once upon a time, I was sitting at a banquet for the 1989 Western Film Convention in Knoxville, Tenn. Who should be singing there but the Haggers, a pair of singing twin brothers who were regulars on Hee Haw. They sang one of the endless verses of "Phht, You Were Gone." as the y finished the verse and got to the chorus, they hollered "You all know it, so sing along!"
Well, I sang along with everyone else, completely shocking the people who were sitting at my table. They could not believe that I, a black New Yorker would know the words. I confessed that even I had watched Hee Haw.
As the next verse started, the Haggers pulled a man from the audience to sing along with them. My friends at my table told me that if the Haggers had seen me in the audience, they surely would have pulled me up on stage to sing along! Can you imagine THAT image?

Firefly said...

I didn't watch Hee Haw growing up, but after reading that hysterically funny song, I'll have to check it out.

And I hear where you're coming from as regards others' perceptions of your "blackness". I've been given more than my share of flak for my appreciation of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in particular and Dolly Parton in general. Some damn philistine is always ready to judge a sister... or a brother. Screw 'em - I like my laughter integrated.

Anonymous said...

I can't get this song out of my head. It is amazing!

Don Ahlquist said...

The Hee Haw tune "Where oh where are you tonight?", was written by Samuel Bickley "Bix" Reichner Was born in 1906 in Overbrook, a neighborhood on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's South Hills area. He worked as a crime reporter for a West Philadelphia newspaper for 25 years while writing lyrics on and off. He wrote lyrics and tunes for a lot of major artists during his lifetime. He wrote lyrics for Hee Haw for the last 20 years of his life. He passed away April 9th, 1989.

Scott Baxter said...

The published lyrics (those included with this blog post, at least) contain a much-reproduced error ... it should read "I had six kids and you had 11 and we had eight more" ... not "a boy." 17 against eight is hardly fair, but 17 versus one is a slaughter!

I too watched Hee Haw with my grandfather when I was a child, and "Pfft! You Were Gone" was always my favorite segment. Now I watch it again on RFD TV feel a little melancholy at how many of those people are really are gone now -- including my grandfather, whom I greatly miss. And yet, watching the show now, I am transported back to sitting on the arm of his recliner at dusk on a Sunday evening some 40 years ago, watching this deliberate, gleeful nonsense. And these days, "Pfft! You Were Gone" is still my favorite part of the show.

elvis2nd said...

Hee Haw was a great show, think of some of the stars it brought into our homes every week

Julius Trujillo said...

Just think, even the great Elvis Presley would have been on Hee Haw if his manager the general hadn't stopped him.

Julius Trujillo said...

Hee Haw was one of The King's favorite shows!

DG said...

I had a "78" Red Label Record made in the 20's that had that song & cannot remember who sang it, but it was NO ONE from HeeHaw.
Flip side was "Tennessee Border"
HeeHaw or Buck Owens probably bought the rights & told everyone they wrote it
.