Flashback: Illinois’ Oldest Farmer Cracks Up Johnny Carson
Depending on your age, the name Johnny Carson either rings a big bell in your memory banks, or you kinda-sorta remember the name--but you have little to no memory of him or the 30 years he spent as host of the Tonight Show on NBC.
It's hard to believe that this year, 2022, marks the 30th anniversary of Johnny Carson's farewell, and the handover of the Tonight Show to Jay Leno.
Johnny Carson Was A Great Interviewer Who Really Shined When Talking With Regular Folks
Which brings us to Merritt Heaton, who, at one time, was the oldest working farmer in the state of Illinois at the ripe old age of 97 years old.
In the late 1980s, there was a contest at the Illinois State Fair to determine who was the oldest farmer in Illinois. After being talked into entering, Merritt Heaton walked away with the title--and was promptly invited onto Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.
If you don't remember, there was nothing and no one bigger in late night TV than Johnny Carson. You've got competing hosts today, but during Carson's reign, he destroyed any and all competitors routinely for 30 years. Carson was king.
An Appearance On The Tonight Show Was What Many Dreamed Of, But Not Illinois' Oldest Farmer
After being invited onto the Tonight Show, Merritt promptly declined. Later, after changing his mind, he agreed to join Johnny Carson on February 4th, 1988. When Carson asked him why he didn't want to come on the show, Merritt explained that it was because "I'm scared to death!"
That's enough background. Take a few minutes to enjoy this wonderful chat with Merritt Heaton of Toulon, Illinois' oldest farmer: