Yep, Uncle Cyp and Aunt Sap. Want to make something out of it? This husband-wife rube comedy team kept rural audiences in stitches for over a half century, from the days of tented wagon shows to the electronic age.
Aunt Sap was Neva Inez Fisher (1889-1980), who was originally from Michigan but moved to Arkadelphia, Arkansas to attend Ouachita Baptist College. She was 30 years old when she married “Cyp”, nine years her junior, ostensibly while the pair were performing and traveling with tent shows. “Cyp” was Laurence Lamarr “L.L” Blasfield (1898-1966) from Smithville, Mississippi, near the Alabama border. L.L. ran off and joined The Mighty Haag circus as a roustabout when he just 14, and this led to a wide variety of adventures in a multitude of show business forms. He performed in blackface** with a wagon based minstrel show, did time with a New Orleans stock company, and toured the Redpath Circuit. The name of his comedy character was “Boob”.
By the mid ’20s, as a couple the Brasfields played with Bisbee’s Comedians in Toby Shows of the type we wrote about here. Boob Blasfield was known as the King of the Tobys for a time. The Bisbee company folded in 1933 during the depths of the Great Depression. Blasfield responded by operating his own company, called the Century Players, which was headquartered in Centreville, Tennessee. This was just a short distance from where my father’s family (cotton farmers) lived, so I learn this information with great delight — it helps fill in my picture of the type of live entertainment my folks probably saw when they had the price of a ticket, being off the beaten track from the big vaudeville circuits. Local girl Minnie Pearl performed with this company, as did Boob’s younger brother Rod Brasfield (1910-1958), who was her comedy partner for a time and became famous in his own right. In the late ’30s and early ’40s Boob ran a stock company in Gadsden, Alabama.
Uncle Cyprus or Cyp and Aunt Sap were developed as radio characters in the mid ’40s and also performed in live tent shows. The characters were a couple of perpetually bickering older middle Tennessee folks. Later they brought their act to TV on Red Foley’s ABC variety program Ozark Jubilee (1955-60) and Five Star Jubilee (NBC, 1961). Making their entrance to the tune of “Turkey in the Straw”, these sketches were clearly a precursor to the later Hee Haw which debuted at the end of the decade when Cyp had already shuffled off this mortal coil (else, he plainly would have been a regular).
L.L. also wrote routines performed by his brother Rod and Minnie Pearl to perform at the Grand Ole Oprey. Rod was a very popular comedian in his day. He opened for Elvis Presley in 1956, and was in A Face in the Crowd (1957) with Andy Griffith. The nickname of his ventriloquist dummy “Bocephus” famously became Hank Williams’ pet name for his young son Hank Williams Jr. Rod’s early alcohol related death at age 42, meant that he, too, missed out on the Hee Haw action. Our loss!
To learn more about variety entertainment, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous
**If you’re too lazy to click the above, our mentioning blackface here never implies an endorsement of the discredited practice.