“How-DEE!” It’s Minnie Pearl
By Mary Miller Cullins
On November 30, 1940, the wisecracking storyteller, made her Grand Ole Opry debut. A mainstay at “The Grand Ole Opry” for more than 50 years, Miss Pearl’s monologues were built around strings of jokes so corny they would make an audience groan if told by anyone else. She created her classic backwoods character, Cousin Minnie Pearl, who wore a straw hat with $198 price tag attached and a thrift shop cotton dress. Her character was was famous for her signature greeting, a high-pitched “How-dee! I’m just proud to be here!” and for her animated chatter about “ketchin’ a feller.”
It was suggested that she audition for “The Grand Ole Opry”, because producers worried that some listeners would find her hayseed character offensive. Her first performance, for which she was paid $10, took place after 11 P.M. Miss Pearl quickly became one of the show’s most popular performers. In 1940, she was made a permanent member of the Opry, remaining until 1991 when she suffered a stroke.
Discussing her alter ego, Miss Pearl once said, “Minnie Pearl is uncomplicated. She’s apple pie and clothes dried in the sun and the smell of fresh bread baking. I don’t think people think of her so much as a show business act as a friend. When I’m on stage, I’m just Minnie Pearl wearing my battered old straw hat and battered shoes. The price tag on my hat seems to be symbolic of all human frailty. There’s old Minnie Pearl standing on stage in her best dress, telling everyone how proud she is to be there.”
I used look forward to Saturday nights and watching Hee-Haw. Minnie Pearl, Roy Clark, and Buck Owens. They were my faves. She was on the show from 1969 to 1991. Thanks for the memories Minnie Pearl!
October 25, 1912-March 4, 1996
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