BULLS GAP — Archie Campbell’s grandson Chase Campbell wasn’t around when Archie was in his heyday, but he’s constantly getting to know his grandfather through the stories and the experiences of others.
Chase, who is a pastor in Knoxville, was only 3 years old when the longtime singer, comedian and star of “Hee-Haw” passed away in 1987 at the age of 72.
“So many people had personal interactions with him,” Chase told the Times News Friday. “He was the kind of guy who wanted to talk to everybody and be around people, and so many people have a personal story of something they did with him, and they get to come tell me those stories. I’ve learned him through other people’s experiences with him.”
On Friday morning, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development honored Archie with the unveiling of a new Tennessee Music Pathways marker in his hometown of Bulls Gap that will help tell his story as part of Tennessee’s rich musical history.
“It warms our heart to see his legacy honored so that more people can find out about that,” Chase said. “Our history is the history of all East Tennessee, and we share that, so it’s a proud moment. It means a lot to us that we get to share this with everyone. This is a great way to honor the legacy of someone who gave his life to entertaining people, to inspiring people, and to making their lives a little better.”
Telling the entertainer’s story
Archie was born in Bulls Gap in 1914. Mostly remembered for his roles on the long-running television series “Hee Haw,” he was longtime a comedian, singer, painter, television and radio host, and writer with a career that spanned five decades.
Following a long radio, TV and recording career, Archie was hired in 1969 as an on-air comedian and one of two original writers for “Hee-Haw,” where he was a regular until he passed away in 1987.
His recurring characters included the Barber, where he began the “That’s good, that’s bad” routine and popularized spoonerisms. He appeared as Dr. Campbell and Justus O’Peace. Archie also began using “Pfft, You Were Gone” as one of the show’s recurring musical routines.
Several family members were among those in attendance Friday for the dedication ceremony, including Archie’s son Phil Campbell, Chase, and two nieces — Freida Sempkowski and Joyce Barnett — and great-great-grandnephew Elijah Carmack.
The Tennessee Music Pathways marker was placed between the house where Archie was born and Bulls Gap City Hall, which is the home of the Archie Campbell Museum.
”Tell the story of the musical pioneers”
Tennessee Music Pathways is an online planning guide founded in 2018 that connects visitors to the state’s musical heritage at tnmusicpathways.com.
Tennessee Assistant Commissioner of Rural Tourism Melanie Beauchamp noted that the online tour guide identifies significant locations in the state’s music history in all 95 counties, and features hundreds of landmarks from the seven genres of music that call Tennessee home (blues, bluegrass, country, gospel, soul, rockabilly, and rock ’n’ roll).
“These places help tell the story of the musical pioneers and legends, like the one we’re honoring today,” Beauchamp said. “Our goal is to not only connect the fans to music, but to inspire travel to destinations like Bulls Gap, so that the traveler will stay a little bit longer while they’re here and explore.”
”A place where you could really call home”
Archie’s son Phil pointed out everything that’s already been done to honor his father in Bulls Gap, including relocating the house where Archie was born to downtown, the museum, and the annual festival that was named for him for many years.
Phil said Friday’s dedication was the crowning moment of his father’s legacy.
“On behalf of the family, I want to thank everybody, especially in the town of Bulls Gap,” Phil said. “They have always been such a great support for my dad, and for the family. Even now pretty much everybody up here knows me, and I know most of them. It’s always been great for me to come up here. This was a place where you could really call home. This is the true country. People out here are the salt of the earth.”
Surrounded by family members, Phil had the honor of removing the new marker’s covering. He noted immediately that the main photo was his favorite of his dad, and the smaller photo was Archie’s favorite publicity shot from “Hee-Haw.”
Phil read the lengthy story told on the marker, which can be seen in a video included here.