The Hager Brothers, Jim and Jon, may have been born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1941, but fans of Hee Haw accepted the twins as pure Country.
Their adoptive father, Jack Hager, was a Methodist minister, while adoptive mother, Frances, was a schoolteacher. The Hagers were very active in their church choir and performed on local television stations in their youth. After graduating high school, they joined the United States Military. The identical twins performed at Officer’s Clubs and NCO Clubs in the United States and Europe. Their talent followed them wherever they went, and they confidentially decided to move to California when their time in the service ended.
The Hagers landed a job at Ledbetter’s Night Club in Los Angeles, California, that boasted a lineup of performers that later became beloved stars such as The New Christy Minstrels, The Carpenters, Steve Martin, John Denver and Kenny Rodgers.
Country tycoon Buck Owens spotted the Hagers working at Disneyland and immediately signed them. They began opening for Country music acts including Billie Jo Spears, Lefty Frizzell, Tex Ritter and Wynn Stewart. The twins signed a contract with Capitol Records in 1969 and released the chart-topping hit, “Gotta Get To Oklahoma (Cause California’s Getting’ To Me).” They went on to record several more albums with Barnaby Records and Elektra-Asylum.
The singing twins were guitarists and drummers and initially arrived on the set as original members of “Hee Haw” in 1969 for the musical segments. As the show progressed the two were eventually worked in as comedy acts.
“People laughed at themselves,” Jim Hager said in a 1988 Associated Press interview about ‘Hee Haw.’ They liked the chemistry on the show and the fast pace… (the jokes) were not all platinum. The writers count on the person delivering the line to pull it off. It was cornball, no denying it.”
In addition to performing on Hee Haw, the brothers appeared on television series such as “The Bionic Woman,” “Country Kitchen” and “Sanctuary Earth.” They were in television commercials and also starred next to Lillian Gish in a made for TV movie, “Twin Detectives.” In 1973 the handsome twins appeared in the pages of “Playgirl” magazine.
“They had a fun personality,” recalled Hee Haw producer Sam Lovullo. “They were also the answer to the Hee-Haw Honeys. We were always looking for the other side of the gender – for good-looking hunks. They fit the bill very nicely.”
The Hagers continued to perform long after their days at “Hee Haw” came to a close in 1986. Both brothers were very active in charitable events.
“They were always contributing their talents to whatever was needed, not for money but just so they could help out,” Lovullo said. “They did a lot of fundraisers and were supportive of young people who were ill.”
The pair told a media source in 1988 that they had always been together with the exception of three and a half years in the 1960s when Jon moved to Nashville and Jim remained in Los Angeles before he, too, relocated to Nashville.
In May 2008 Jim Hager was found dead in the parking lot of the Nashville coffeehouse, The Frothy Monkey. A Vanderbilt University Medical Center spokesman said he had died of a heart attack.
“Jim was a delightful, funny, loyal friend,” Hee Haw cast mate Lulu Roman told the Associated Press. “He will be missed greatly as one of my true friends. He and Jon were a dynamic and extremely talented duo. I pray for his family.”
Eight months after the untimely death of his brother, Jon Hager died in his sleep from poor health exacerbated by deep depression. Friends reported that Jim’s death had consumed Jon.
The Hagers are remembered for their All-American good looks, charismatic personalities and true musical talent that made them stars of Hee Haw and beyond.
– story by Sasha Dunavant, Country Reunion Music © 2022
The role of the family is an integral theme of Country Music. Some of Country’s greatest songs have captured memories from family life. Family acts, including sibling duos, have long been a staple on the Country stage. Some families have produced numerous talented members, both performers and songwriters, who separately made their impact on the genre. In other families, each generation has expanded the legacy of the one before it. This story is part of a series published in our magazines that celebrates Country Music’s family connections.