The recurring Hee Haw skit – “Phfft! You Were Gone” – was originally a King Record, believe it or not, that was recorded in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 3, 1952 by Bob Newman, who recorded Henry Glover‘s great truck driving song “Haulin’ Freight” the year before, as you might recall:
“Phfft! You Were Gone” Bob Newman 1952
Billboard would review “Phfft! You Were Gone” in its November 1, 1952 edition:
“Newman tries hard on this novelty and hands it a good vocal, which should help it pick up many spins.”
Many thanks to Bopping for its detailed Bob Newman sessionography in which the following musicians for “Haulin’ Freight” are listed:
Bob Newman: bass & lead vocal
Henry Glover: drums
Al Meyers: lead guitar
Louie Innis: rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson: fiddle
Shorty Long: piano
“Phfft! You Were Gone” would include Newman on bass & vocals, Shorty Long on piano, and Al Meyers on lead guitar, plus “sound effect” provided by Howdy Kempf, with an unnamed drummer and rhythm guitarist rounding out the sound. Thanks to Scott Kempf, Howdy’s son, for not only correcting my previous spelling error with regard to his father’s name but also for providing Zero to 180 with this exclusive bit of background information:
“Howdy Kempf was my Dad. He passed in 1997.
My Dad and Bob Newman were friends and both artists for King Records at that time. My Dad also performed with the Georgia Crackers which was Bob’s group.
On that session day during the car trip from Columbus to Cincinnati, my Dad wrote down the words to the song as Bob dictated. And then provided the Phfft on the original session. My Dad had a unique way of making that sound. If you listen to the Hee Haw versions, not too many could duplicate that sound without spitting on someone. Lol.
P.S. On some of my Dad’s recordings over the years, the F was left off of my Dad’s last name. That may have lead to some confusion.”
Bopping also has the history on Bob Newman alias, Lee Roberts:
“‘Phfft! You Were Gone,’ another novelty, was sold by Bob (alias Lee Roberts) and he didn’t get a dime when about twenty years later the song became a hook on the Hee Haw TV show. Bob, according to Hank’s widow, was a big spender: he would sell a song for, say, $ 1,500, then throw away $ 2,000. He sold ‘Shut Up And Drink Your Beer’ to Merle Travis, and ‘Crying Steel Guitar Waltz’ to Jean Shepard. That’s why he never made a living of his songs. Al Myers explained that Bob Newman didn’t know how to pursue his career, and that’s the main reason why King didn’t renew his contract in August 1952.”
The indispensable Both Sides Now Publications offers a slightly more expansive view:
“For years, the television series Hee Haw used a song on the show called ‘Phfft! You Were Gone,’ often credited to Buck Owens. Earlier appearances of the song on record attributed writer’s credit to Lee Roberts, Susan Heather, or Marian B. Yarneall. Bob Newman’s son Bob Jr. recently wrote to us to untangle the mystery of authorship of this classic. It was first recorded by Bob Newman July 3, 1952, at King Studios in Cincinnati. It was released on King 45-1131 shortly thereafter, with writer credits to Lee Roberts. Bob Newman actually wrote the song under the name Lee Roberts, which was his usual pen name (he had over 80 songwriting credits for both ASCAP and BMI under that name), and was the first to record it. Newman sold the song to Bix Reichner in 1958. Reichner, who wrote many songs including ‘Papa Loves Mambo’ for Perry Como and ‘I Need Your Love Tonight’ for Elvis Presley, assigned the song to his wife’s name — Marian B. Yarneall, aka Susan Heather. By the time the Audio Lab album came out in 1959, the writer credit had changed to Susan Heather. The original version of the song made its first (only?) LP appearance on his Audio Lab album.”
Two decades or so later, television writers would enjoy endless lyrical possibilities:
“Phfft! You Were/Was Gone” Hee Haw
Note, however, that Bopping assumes — as I did, until very recently — that King merely “reissued” those two truck driving songs in 1959, “Haulin’ Freight” and “Lonesome Truck Driver’s Blues.” Sorry, Bopping, but we discovered in the previous Zero to 180 piece that those two songs were given a re-boot to make them sound more contemporary.
King Record Innovation: “Bio Discs“
Independent record producer and music writer, Randy McNutt, has authored two books about Cincinnati’s post-WWII music history and its role in giving birth to rock & roll.
King Records of Cincinnati points out a wily marketing tactic by Syd Nathan that happens to involve Bob Newman:
“The 78 RPM record pictured here, Newman’s ‘Quarantined Love’ , shows another of Nathan’s innovations, the bio disc. He printed brief biographies of artists on promotional records and sent them to disc jockeys and decision makers in the music business. The idea must have worked, for King Records continued to issue bio discs into the 1960s.”