Buddy Ebsen, the original Beverly Hillbilly, died July 6, 2003. On the 10th anniversary of his death, we remember his star turn as Jed Clampett – and his dynamic dancing. (Getty Images / Moviepix / Ted Allan)
If you were watching television in the 1960s, you likely caught an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. Probably more than one, considering it was one of the highest-rated shows on TV during its 1962-71 run (and the episode "The Giant Jack Rabbit" remains the most-watched half-hour sitcom episode of all time). Even if you're a little younger, you’ve probably seen it in syndication, as the show continues to be a rerun favorite. And, even if you haven’t seen it, you undoubtedly know the catchy theme song ("swimming pools, movie stars…") featuring the late, great Lester Flatt on guitar and Earl Scruggs on banjo.
At the heart of the silly but lovable sitcom was patriarch Jed Clampett, played winningly by the talented Buddy Ebsen.
It was Ebsen's most iconic role, just one in a long career that included leading roles in multiple long-running TV shows, as well as performances in movie musicals, Westerns, and other classics like Breakfast at Tiffany's with Audrey Hepburn.
Ebsen's greatest successes were on television, and he starred or co-starred on hit TV shows in the 1950s (as Davy Crockett's sidekick Georgie, alongside Fess Parker), 1960s (The Beverly Hillbillies) and 1970s (as private detective Barnaby Jones).
But he began his performing career as a dancer, one half of a brother-sister dance act, and though he's best remembered for non-musical roles, he was always a hoofer at heart. We can't think of a better way to pay tribute to Ebsen than to highlight him hoofin' it.
In Born to Dance with Eleanor Powell and James Stewart:
With Dean Martin, Charles Nelson Reilly, Lee J. Cobb and Jackie Vernon:
On television in 1978:
Written by Jessica Campbell and Linnea Crowther
The Beverly Hillbillies | Photo Gallery