LOUISVILLE, Ky. (ABP)—Singer-songwriter Don McLean’s 1970s hit record “American Pie” mourned the 1959 plane crash that killed rock-and-roll pioneers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper as “the day the music died.” For a generation of humor-loving Baptists, Nov. 23, 1982, marked a similar loss.
Grady Nutt, a Baptist minister who attained national fame as the “Prime Minister of Humor” in 1979 as a regular cast member of the popular television series “Hee Haw,” was at the pinnacle of his career when he died in a plane crash after a speaking engagement in Alabama at age 48.
Nutt was a pillar of Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., then the unofficial mother church of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, his alma mater and where he worked for a time as director of alumni affairs and assistant to the president. For many alumni who passed through there between his entry into the entertainment field in 1969 and his untimely death, Nutt was the gold standard for Christian comedy.
Speaking to 9,000 youth at a Baptist youth conference at a theme park in Hot Springs, Ark., just weeks before his death, Nutt introduced himself as an authority on young people.
“I’ve tried to be one most of my life,” he quipped.
Nutt described asking once why Methodist kids were allowed to go to dances, while Baptist kids were not. The response, he said, was that once the Methodist kids started going to dances the next step was “the bushes,” a euphemism for necking. The Baptist kids, he explained, just went straight to the bushes.
On a more serious note, Nutt advised young people to love others unconditionally. “Jesus never told one person what they had to do the earn God’s love,” he said. “The healthiest thing that ever happens in a church happens when youth in a church become open to other young people.”
Nutt’s homespun storytelling style earned accolades including the Grady Nutt Humor Award presented in his honor by the Gospel Music Association, the Grady Nutt Endowment Fund at the University of Louisville and the Grady Nutt Collection of his works at Southern Seminary.
In his 1979 memoir, Nutt described his life’s journey with the joy of humor as “So, Good, So Far.”
“And I can hardly wait for the next turn in the road,” he concluded.
An unofficial reference page dedicated to Nutt is on the Internet at http://www.the-cartoonist.com/Nutt/Nutt.html.