The Beverly Hillbillies backstory, plus the theme song & lyrics (1962-1971)

Beverly Hillbillies - Family in the car

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“The Beverly Hillbillies” took a humorous take on the classic rags-to-riches and fish-out-of-water stories by moving a family out of the country into the city — and not just any city, but super-posh Beverly Hills.

The TV show originally ran for nine seasons — from 1962 to 1971 — during which time they produced an amazing 274 episodes.

The cast included Buddy Ebsen as J. D. “Jed” Clampett, Irene Ryan as Daisy May (“Granny”) Moses, Donna Douglas as Elly May Clampett, Max Baer Jr. as Jethro Bodine, Raymond Bailey as banker Milburn Drysdale, and Nancy Kulp as bank secretary Miss Jane Hathaway.

The show’s showrunner, Paul Henning, went on to create two other well-known sitcoms: “Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres” — and there were several crossover episodes that featured all three shows.

During its run, Hillbillies was ranked as the number one most-watched TV series of the year twice, and was even nominated for an Emmy award seven times.

The Beverly Hillbillies

The Beverly Hillbillies TV show debuts (1962)

From The La Crosse Tribune (Wisconsin) – September 22, 1962

“The Beverly Hillbillies,” starring Buddy Ebsen with Irene Ryan, Donna Douglas and Max Baer, which premieres Wednesday, September 26 over the CBS Television Network, stems directly from an affinity that producer Paul Banning has had for hillbillies for 25 years.

The new comedy series is a story of a mountain family who suddenly finds itself with $25 million after oil is found on their property, and then moves to Beverly Hills, Calif.

Henning, who created “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and is writing and producing it as well, fell in love with the ways and manners of the hillbilly folk when, as a Boy Scout back in Independence, Missouri, he spent his summers camping and hiking in the Ozark Maintains.

“I have wanted to write something about these lovable people ever since,” says Kenning, who left Missouri a quarter of a century ago to become one of the top comedy writers for radio, television and motion pictures.

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He is convinced his fondness for hillbillies will strike a corresponding reaction in viewers.

“They are real people, and I think that audiences will laugh with our hillbillies — not at them.”

Henning’s stories of the experiences of the Clampett clan in Beverly Hills will point to the superficialities of our modern-day society. He strongly believes in the strength and innate dignity of his characters and his scripts will stress their honesty and simplicity.

Here's the lowdown on the actors on Beverly Hillbillies (1964)

Here’s the lowdown on the actors on TV’s Beverly Hillbillies (1964)

By Bob Lardine, Daily News (New York, New York) March 8, 1964

Beverly Hillbillies Producer Paul Henning talks about the stars of his top-rated shows:

“Donna Douglas has found the answer we all seek.” – “Buddy Ebsen is a rarity: a big man who is graceful.” – “Irene Ryan has fantastic physical stamina.” – “Max Baer is really just an overgrown kid.”

Paul Henning, creator-producer of TV’s hottest show, “Beverly Hillbillies,” as well as “Petticoat Junction,” is the author of these comments about the stars of his series. The 52-year-old comedy writer from Independence, Mo., would rather talk about his popular crew than himself. And that’s unique in show business!

Henning, a George Gobel look-alike, loses his natural good humor only when reminded that many TV critics and writers continually blast both his highly rated CBS-TV programs.

“I’d rather please the people than the critics,” is his answer. “I created both shows because I was sick and tired of all the violence, crime and sadism on television. I wanted to put something on the air that was pure fun and escapism.”

It is Henning’s contention that “the viewers make the decisions — not the critics.” He says: “The viewer has a choice at all times.”

One of the choices viewers had to make this season was whether to watch “Beverly Hillbillies” or “Ben Casey.” Henning insists he was more surprised than worried when the neurosurgeon was pitted opposite this series.

“Why did they make the move? I can’t understand it,” he says. “My wife, Ruth, is downright angry. She’s a big fan of ‘Ben Casey.’ Now she can’t watch it. I’m sure plenty of other people are just as resentful.”

Beverly Hillbillies - Meet the Clampetts

Even though the decisions of TV brass intrigue Henning, he’d much prefer to discuss the personalities on his shows. Here then are his off-the-antenna remarks about his stars.

BUDDY EBSEN. “A truly wonderful man, extremely cooperative and thoroughly accomplished. Buddy’s past experience as a dancer serves him in good stead. He’s never clumsy as an actor. Off camera, Buddy is rather serious, but he has a fine sense of humor. His main relaxation is sailing, and he’s usually on the water with his family every weekend. But don’t ever think of inviting him to go flying. He’s scared to death of planes!”

IRENE RYAN. “She’s an amazingly strong woman, though she can’t be over five feet or weigh more than 90 pounds. Irene’s all bone and muscle. She’s a peppery type. Of all the members in the cast, Irene’s the only one who has never been sick a single day”

DONNA DOUGLAS. “It’s impossible to get into an argument with her. She’s all tranquility and peace. Donna has found a religion which gives her unbelievable serenity. I’ve never seen anyone so adjusted. Donna has an empathy with animals that has to be seen.

“The other day, there was a scene calling for Donna to hug a bear. I told her we’d get a stunt woman to do the scene. She wouldn’t hear of it. She just walked up to the bear and hugged it. Naturally, the bear hugged her back. You couldn’t pay me to do the scene, tame bear or not!”

MAX BAER. “This fellow is so powerful he scares you. Max is carefree, full of fun. He drives a car fast, and loves to skydive.

“You never can tell what he’s going to do next. When introduced to a girl, Max is just as likely to pick her up bodily as to shake her hand. Max looks to Buddy Ebsen almost as he would a father. Buddy gives him advice on everything.”

Opening credits/Beverly Hillbillies theme song video

YouTube video

Lyrics for “The Beverly Hillbillies” theme song – Opening credits

“The Ballad of Jed Clampett”

Written by Paul Henning / Music by Flatt and Scruggs / Sung by Jerry Scoggins

Come and listen to my story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed.
And then one day he was shootin’ at some food,
And up through the ground come a-bubblin’ crude.
Oil, that is. Black gold. Texas tea.

Well, the first thing you know ol’ Jed’s a millionaire,
The kinfolk said “Jed, move away from there!”
Said, “Californy is the place you ought to be,”
So they loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly
Hills, that is. Swimmin’ pools, movie stars.

Bonus lyrics (not in the TV show intro)

Old Jed bought a mansion, lordy it was swank
Next door neighbor’s the president of the bank.
Lotta folks complaining, but the banker found no fault
‘Cause all Jed’s millions was a-sitting in the vault!
Redemption funds. Stocks and bonds.

Lyrics for “The Beverly Hillbillies” theme song – Closing credits

Well, now it’s time to say goodbye to Jed and all his kin.
And they would like to thank you folks fer kindly droppin’ in.
You’re all invited back next week to this locality
To have a heapin’ helpin’ of their hospitality.
Hillbilly, that is. Set a spell. Take your shoes off.
Y’all come back now, y’hear?

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