The Beverly Hillbillies was in desperate need of more writers as the series progressed
For Henning, knowing a thing or two about hillbilly history was just as important as other skills listed on a resume.
In the 1960s, a writing team usually consisted of two people. Anything more than that would simply be called a "stable of writers" — something Paul Henning lacked in the early seasons of The Beverly Hillbillies.
Paul Henning was the writer, producer and creator of the hit series which made its onscreen debut in 1962. During the first few seasons of The Beverly Hillbillies, Henning put all of his time and dedication into being the sole writer on the show.
But in 1966 — for the first time in his four-year tenure as the creator — this head writer finally found his "stable." He had an actual writing team.
His team included Ronny Pearlman, Buddy Atkinson and Mark Tuttle. Tuttle was the only writer to be with Henning from the start. While there was nothing unusual about a TV series having four or more writers, it came as a big adjustment for Henning.
According to a 1966 interview with the Calgary Herald, Henning said he was doing the long and grueling task of being the main writer for the series, with the sole help of Mark Tuttle, who he brought on midway through the first year.
Henning originally employed Tuttle as his assistant and on-the-job trainee. We think it's safe to say he got his training hours in... and then some! Henning kept his eye out for writers who would match his message on The Beverly Hillbillies.
Knowing a thing or two about hillbilly culture was just as important to him as other skills on a resume.
"My problem was that almost all script writers are big-city boys born and bred — and it figures," Henning said. "In the big city is where one is most likely to acquire the glibness, sophistication and education it takes. But the big-city boy doesn't have the inherent understanding of nature, customs and lore of the type of native, rural, southern Americans represented by Jed Clampett and his kin."
Henning grew up in western Missouri where he would attend a camp deep in the Ozark Mountains. He met people along the way, and those random hillbilly hikers inspired many of his future characters, including those in The Beverly Hillbillies.
Until he could find the right writers, he held himself and Tuttle to a grueling work schedule with over 70 episodes being written between the first three seasons.
According to the interview, Henning even transformed his office at the General Service Studio into a living quarter where he would stay and write night and day.
With the show growing in popularity, and with the lack of time, Henning did a deep search and found two former country-boys who were ready to write: Atkinson and Pearlman. Both of them had the experience of a big city, but with the background of rural culture.
"You can't turn out a good Beverly Hillbillies script merely by substituting lingo like 'cain't,' 'branch water,' and 'side meat' in place of standard English," Henning said. "You have to really know those people in your bones."
Henning said compared to the writing job, the admin tasks involved in producing were a breeze for him. It was clear he had spent most of this time in his career thinking about how to better The Beverly Hillbillies. He and his new stable of writers rode all the way to success.
"As anyone knows who writes regularly for a living, it's an agonizing way to keep food on the table," Henning said.