Legends & Legacies View More

Howdy, Minnie Pearl!

Published: 10/25/2012

 Minnie Pearl, whose hayseed humor, shrill greeting ``howdyyyyy'' and flowered hat with dangling price tag made her the first country comedienne known worldwide, died Monday, March 4, 1996. She was 83 . Pearl is shown in this 1968 photo. Pearl, whose real name was Sarah Ophelia Cannon, had been a Grand Ole Opry star since 1940 and spent 20 years on TV's ``Hee Haw'' series. (AP Photo)

Minnie Pearl (AP Photo)

One hundred years ago today, Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon was born. Name doesn't ring a bell? You might be a bit more familiar with her alter-ego.

As Minnie Pearl, Cannon sang a gleeful "How-DEEEEE!" to her fans and talked about the folks back home in "Grinder's Switch" (which was based on her true hometown of Centerville, Tenn.) She poked fun at herself and her family in her strong country accent, often sounding like she'd temporarily lost the script. When speaking as herself – she dropped the character for interviews – the accent remained, but the self-deprecation and hesitant delivery went right out the window.

As Minnie Pearl, Cannon sang and danced as well as cracking jokes. Her down-homey style may have seemed unpolished, but that wasn't for lack of skill. Cannon was a graduate of Ward-Belmont College, where she majored in theatre with a concentration in dance. She went on to teach dance for years after college.

In addition to being a beloved comedian, Cannon was a breast cancer survivor who became a spokesperson for the cancer center where she was treated and established the Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation to help fund cancer research.

Whether you remember her as a beacon of hope for those fighting cancer, a goofy comedian who made us laugh, or the chart-topping singer of "Giddy Up Go Answer," there's no doubt that Sarah Cannon was a pearl.

Written by Linnea Crowther

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