Pop Culture

‘Beverly Hillbillies’ creator dies at 93

Paul Henning, who created the hit TV show “The Beverly Hillbillies” and wrote its theme song, died Friday at the age of 93.

Henning, who lived in Toluca Lake, died in a Burbank hospital of natural causes. He had been sick for some time, his daughter Carol said.

Henning created “The Beverly Hillbillies,” which debuted in 1962, based on his encounters with residents of the Ozarks during camping trips as a youth, his daughter said.

The CBS series starring Buddy Ebsen as the patriarch Jed drew up to 60 million viewers at its peak and ran until 1971.

Henning also wrote the words and music to “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” which was sung by Jerry Scoggins while Nashville bluegrass stars Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs played guitar and banjo.

The ballad began, “Come and listen to a story about a man name Jed/ a poor mountaineer who barely kept his family fed/ then one day he was shootin’ for some food/ and up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude.”

In 1963, Henning created “Petticoat Junction,” a “Hillbillies” spinoff.

Henning was born on a farm in Missouri on Sept. 16, 1911 and grew up in Independence. As a teenager, he worked behind the soda fountain at Brown’s Drugstore, where he met Harry Truman, who advised the young boy to become a lawyer, his daughter said.

He graduated from Kansas City School of Law, but soon went to work writing for radio. He wrote for “Fibber McGee and Molly” and “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show,” among others.

While Henning is sometimes credited with creating the TV show “Green Acres,” his daughter said Henning helped the show’s creator Jay Sommers cast the show and served as its executive producer.

Henning also worked in films, writing the 1964 film “Bedtime Story,” starring Marlon Brando and David Niven. The film later served as the basis for the 1988 “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”

Later in his life, Henning and his wife Ruth donated land near Branson, Missouri to the state for a conservation area.

Henning is survived by two daughters, a son and two grandsons.

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