Died: November 13, 1983, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
An American comedian best known for his 14-year run as a cast member of the TV show Hee Haw.
A sixth grade dropout, Samples was a stock car racing driver and carpenter by trade who went on the radio at the age of 40 and told a story about catching the largest fish ever seen in his hometown. The story was a humorous tall tale, and the recording of this radio story became a best-selling novelty record. He was asked to become part of the 1969 cast of Hee Haw.
From the liner notes of this album:
"I don’t know whether people read liner notes on the back of albums before or after they play the record that’s inside, but in any case the recording that’s inside this album jacket is the result of one of the most amazing stories I’ve encountered in my sixteen years of covering stories about show business and it’s people. Junior Samples is a North Georgia backwoodsman who backed into show business through an amazing set of circumstances that seem more like a fairy tale than that legendary lady, Cinderella.
I suppose it all started when one of Junior’s young sons found the head of a big fish on the shores of Lake Laneer near his home in Cummings, Ga. He took it to a race track to show his dad, our hero, who had taken a few drinks, and, needless to say, was feeling pretty good. Junior paraded the fish among the racing fans and claimed that he had caught a big bass. A radio announcer covering the races also heard Junior’s story and proceeded to broadcast it to his audience. Thus the story of the big fish spread, and soon came to the attention of the Georgia Game and Fish Commission who, in turn, dispatched Jim Morrison to the home of Junior Samples with a tape recorder to get Junior’s own account of how he caught the big fish.
Today Junior says, “this is one of my stories that got out of hand. I told Mr. Morrison to forget it, but when he kept insisting that he had to get a story, I took a drink and told him one!”
In the Spring of 1966, the original ‘Big Whopper’ interview was broadcasted all over the state of Georgia through the regular Game and Fish Commission program. It was so funny that stations were asked by their listeners to repeat it.
Junior was then forgotten for a while until Spring of 1967, when the program was repeated and the reaction again was fantastic. Slim Williamson, President of Chart Records, was contacted, and he immediately signed Junior to a recording contract and gained the rights to release the interview as a record. The two guitars were dubbed in to provide background music and the interview was shortened to conform with the time of most of today’s records.
The results have been fantastic. Junior, after appearing on my night radio program and on my television show, as well as others, was immediately taken into the hearts of all who heard him. He was asked to, and did, appear before the Legislature at the Tennessee State Capital. Johnny Cash was so favorably impressed with Junior that he asked him to join his radio show this fall. He was written up in newspapers all over the South, and is now being acclaimed as the comedy find of 1967.
I personally think that Junior’s greatest appeal is in his honest approach to any subject, as I’m sure you will be able to tell by listening to this, his first album."
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