Friday Five: Country Music on The Muppet Show

Ken Morton, Jr. | May 28th, 2010

And now let’s get things started
Why don’t you get things started
It’s time to get things started
On the most sensational inspirational celebrational Muppetational
This is what we call the Muppet Show!

Don’t deny it. You were singing along just now…

Kermit taught us that it’s not easy being green. Or in Gonzo’s case, blue. For five years, beginning in 1976, little felt characters brought us as much laughter and entertainment as anything else on television. For 120 episodes, Fozzie the Bear, Miss Piggy, Scooter, Rowlf, Beaker, Sam the Eagle, Animal and various friends did everything they could do to make life hell for Statler and Waldorf.

But along the way during this beloved show, a series of guest stars–most notably country music guest stars–sang alongside Jim Henson’s family doing originals and parodies of their biggest hits. It was a veritable who’s who of big names in country music. Names like Linda Ronstadt, Kris Kristofferson, Crystal Gayle, Anne Murray, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans appeared in various episodes. Even Waylon Jennings did a duet with Big Bird in a non-Muppets Show movie Follow That Bird. John Denver appeared in two exclusive Muppets specials (John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together and John Denver & the Muppets: Rocky Mountain Holiday.)

Without further ado, here’s a Friday Five of great appearances by country music artists on The Muppet Show.

  • 5. “Rocky Top” – Roy Clark (Season 3, Episode 51)

    On this classic episode, Fozzie Bear hears Kermit say the show is “going country” with guest Roy Clark. The dimwitted bear then sends all the stagehands out to the country. Kermit ends up making Fozzie do all their work, including scenery, curtains and backdrops. Fozzie catches the theater on fire in the process, but not before Roy Clark takes a break from hosting Hee Haw and hosts The Muppet Show instead. Clark gets to demonstrate his incredible musicianship on “Rocky Top” on this episode.

  • 4. “The Garden Song” – John Denver (Season 4, Episode 73)

    The episode opens with Waldorf stopping by Denver’s dressing room and trying to talk him out of appearing on the episode. He’s aghast when he finds out Denver actually wants to be on the show. Denver sings on three songs during the episode, but this favorite–called “The Garden Song”–has him singing in a garden. It’s a garden that comes alive with singing Muppet plants.

  • 3. “One’s On The Way” – Loretta Lynn (Season 3, Episode 56)

    In one of the funnier Muppet Show scenes ever, the Country Music Hall of Famer Loretta Lynn sings “One’s On The Way” with what seems like a dozen little realistic human baby Muppets that can’t stay out of the way. The kids whacking each other with baby toys is really darn funny.

  • 2. “The Gambler” – Kenny Rogers (Season 4, Episode 82)

    In this episode, Scooter’s uncle sells the mineral rights for Kenny’s dressing room to Arabs, who start drilling for oil. Kenny performs two different tunes on the show, including his classic “The Gambler” (on which he’s accompanied by three realistic-looking old men Muppets), as well as a duet with several cast members on “Love Lifted Me.” More than love lifts Gonzo at the end of the episode when he shoots himself out of a catapult and into Statler and Waldorf’s box.

  • 1. “Jackson” – Johnny Cash & Miss Piggy (Season 5, Episode 117)

    Miss Piggy is trying to cut into June Carter’s action here as Johnny duets with the lovely curly-tailed one on “Jackson.” The best tune of the show, however, is the original “Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog,” where Cash insults Rowlf the piano player as he sings. Johnny’s backing band on this episode has the world’s coolest band name: Lubbock Lou and his Jughuggers.

  1. Andrew
    May 28, 2010 at 9:03 am

    My favorite has to be Garth Brooks refusing to do his own songs on Muppets Tonight.

  2. Ken Morton, Jr.
    May 28, 2010 at 9:25 am
  3. Lewis
    May 28, 2010 at 10:50 am

    There should be some honorable mentions from other country stars who appeared on The Muppet Show here:

    Crystal Gayle’s “River Road” and “We Must Believe In Magic” from 1980.

    Anne Murray’s “Walk Right Back” from 1978.

    Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night” as a duet with Miss Piggy and Animal playing the drums (I can’t remember when it was aired probably 1978 or so)

  4. Rick
    May 28, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Those are all nice songs, but I’d have to go with Harry Belafonte’s version of “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” since its become the official theme song of the Obama presidency! I can just picture the U.S. as a banana boat on its voyage to becoming a third world banana republic with its hull covered by crude oil leaking from the gulf oil spill! That’s just freakin’ awesome…

  5. J.B.
    May 28, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Thank you! I watched these in syndication for the first time in the early 90s (I’m 23). I definitely remember them, plus the Crystal Gayle appearances. Classic.

    RE: the Banana Boat Song…that’s calypso. Besides, never in a million years will the U.S. become a banana republic. We’re only good for coal, corn, and soybeans. Hey, maybe that will be the title of the next politically-controversial country hit: ‘Corn Republic.’ Hey, nothing surprises me anymore.

  6. BLL
    May 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    My favourite bits were Garth doing Tom Jones and kicking the chickens during ‘If I Were a Rich Man’.

  7. Ben Foster
    May 28, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    I loved the Muppet Show so much. I really wish some network would air the re-runs. But I really enjoyed this article. This adorable show definitely had some talented country guests. Of these five skits, the Loretta Lynn one was my favorite, and her Muppet Show episode was one of the best.

  8. luckyoldsun
    May 29, 2010 at 1:02 am

    Interesting thing about the Cash clip is it shows that back in the ’70s you could display a Confederate flag even on a family TV show without anybody taking offense or all hell breaking loose.

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