Cast photo of Hee Haw, with Jimmy Riddle up front in overalls
Eefing is one of those things I encountered a few times in my childhood and immediately buried in my subconscious, knowing there was no way I could explain it to anyone without older Appalachian-raised family members. If I had to give a brief description, I’d probably go with “a hundred-year-old Appalachian vocal music technique of percussive gasping, hiccuping, and fart noises.” Praise Jesus, we now have YouTube, and you can just press play and hear for yourself!
Below is a supercut of the absolute f’ing master of eefing, Jimmy Riddle, spliced and remixed, creating a sort of surreal intensity. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
A longer version of Jimmy’s description of eefing can be found here.
Jimmy enthusiastically eefed it up on many an episode of the redneck-themed variety show, Hee Haw, the only secular television my evangelical grandparents watched when I was growing up, besides sports and daytime soap operas. (Hee Haw was, ironically, primarily created by two Canadians and a New York Jew.) Jimmy’s accompaniment (and indeed the only accompaniment I’ve ever really seen with eefing), is usually the manual percussive slaps we call “hambone.”
In 1963, in one of the weirder moments American ethnomusicology, a black singer named Joe Perkins apparently became enamored of hillbilly eefing, and released a novelty single featuring Jimmy’s talents. “Little Eeefin’ Annie,” with its “Uncle Eeef” flipside, was actually a minor hit. (Alvin and the Chipmunks released “Eefin’ Alvin” that same year.)
Below you can hear and see Joe Perkins perform “Little Eeefin’ Annie” on a local Nashville R&B show called Night Train, which aired from 1964 to 1967. The program was made by black producers for black audiences, and this video captures how receptive black audiences could be to hillbilly music, a fact that often goes overlooked. The second song Perkins performs is also weird as hell. It’s called “Runaway Slave,” and it’s a love song that uses chattel slavery as a romantic metaphor (Nobody could ever accuse this guy of playing it safe!)
Lest you get impression that eefing is a noble art form, denigrated by the rednecksploitational Hee Haw money men, but held in solemn reverence by Appalachian people, let me reassure you, I spent a large portion of my childhood with my Appalachian grandparents, and on the rare occasion we encountered eefing, it was intended to evoke laughter.
What I’m saying is, eefing is… an acquired taste, and no one will think you a classist cultural chauvinist if you can’t make it all the way through the supercut. And no one will be offended if you laugh at it, either.
Hambone, however, that shit is deadly serious!