Canadian entertainer Gordie Tapp of 'Hee Haw' dead at 94
Gordie Tapp is shown in a 1972 file photo. Canadian entertainer Tapp, a comedian, musician and script writer who found success in radio and TV, has died at the age of 94. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Files-HO
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, December 19, 2016 2:20PM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 19, 2016 3:56PM EST
BURLINGTON, Ont. -- Canadian entertainer Gordie Tapp, a comedian, musician, script writer and pitchman, died Sunday from complications of pneumonia at age 94.
Born in London, Ont., the member of the Order of Canada and Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame inductee kicked off his career in radio before moving into TV.
During the 1950s, he was a founding member of "Main Street Jamboree," a radio and TV show out of Hamilton, and hosted the CBC music-variety program "Country Hoedown" from 1956 to 1965.
Tapp eventually took his act south of the border to the popular American variety series "Hee Haw," inspiring other Canadian performers to follow his lead.
Earlier this year, comedian Colin Mochrie visited the Lasalle Park Retirement Living Community facility, where Tapp and his wife Helen lived, to pay tribute to the entertainer.
During an onstage chat with Tapp, Mochrie said his career was influenced in part by "Hee Haw."
"For me, it was the first show where I realized that Canadians could make it big in America," Mochrie said. "It was sort of an inspiration."
Despite his successes with "Hee Haw," Tapp was resolute about staying in Canada, said his daughter Kate Tapp Mock.
"We were all up here and Dad didn't really think of himself as American. He was very proudly Canadian and he had enough work here," she said. "He was a good family man."
Tapp also had an undercover role that brought much joy to radio listeners: playing Santa for Hamilton radio station CHML.
"We kids used to have to stay out of my parents' bedroom because he would use that phone and they would make it sound like he was calling from the North Pole. And for hours he would have to sit there and listen to all the kids and what they wanted for Christmas," Tapp Mock said.
In more recent years, Tapp was also known for appearing in TV commercials for Ultramatic beds, and was a committed philanthropist, raising funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Easter Seals Society.
He is survived by his wife and his children Kate, Jeff and Barbara.