Among the legacies born of The Grand Ole Opry, is one of the best loved country gals in American History. Few people would recognize the name Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, but nearly everyone knows Cousin Minnie Pearl.
A regular at the Grand Ole Opry and 20 years of Hee Haw brought Minnie Pearl into homes and hearts across America with her trademark “How-deee!” In a costume she put together herself from thrift store finds hoping to capture the look of a simple country girl dressing up for a trip to the city, Sarah delivered tales of country life in a comical and endearing fashion. Simultaneously wise and bit backward she poked fun at the people from her home town and at herself, without ever offending anyone.
She may be best remembered for her trademark straw hat, with a spray of dime-store flowers and price tag still dangling. As the story goes it was initially an embarrassing oversight, as she honestly forgot to remove the $1.98 from the flowers she grabbed as a last minute idea before her first Grand Ole Opry appearance in 1940. Although skeptics may argue that it is unlikely a spray of flowers would cost $1.98 in 1940, it became a key part of Minnie Pearl’s costume and persona, and something she could not take the stage without, even fashioning a makeshift tag from a piece of cardboard and a tea-bag string when the tag eventually fell off.
While we no longer have Sarah, or Minnie with us, you can still pay a visit to her likeness at the Ryman Theater where a bronze statue of Minnie Pearl sits in the main lobby with a bronze Roy Acuff. To see that iconic hat, you’ll have to visit Washington DC, where it is on display in the National Museum of American History, and yes, the price tag remains on the spray of flowers.
You can find other Minnie Pearl memorabilia on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, in Nashville. While she was never a hit-maker, she was admitted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1975.