Roy Clark, one of the most versatile entertainers in country music history, died Thursday, November 15th, at age 85 at his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, due to complications from pneumonia. Clark was an outstanding instrumentalist, gifted singer and co-host of TV’s “Hee Haw” for more than 20 years.
Clark was born April 15, 1933, in Meherrin, Virginia, and started playing music by the time he was a teenager. He became proficient on guitar and played for such acts as Jimmy Dean and Wanda Jackson. After signing with the Capitol label, Clark released his first single, “Tips of My Fingers,” in 1963, which hit No. 10. He eventually made it inside the Top 10 with the poignant, “Yesterday, When I Was Young,” in 1969.
Clark became one of the first “multi-media” stars of country music when he was tapped to co-host a new comedy/music show on CBS called “Hee Haw” with Buck Owens. The show featured comedy skits, fast one-liners and the top stars of country music, and it caught on with viewers. “Buck and I weren’t sure what we had,” Clark once recalled, “until we saw an edited show that the producers put together. Then, we knew it would be good.” CBS canceled the series after two years, but “Hee Haw” lived on in syndication, running until 1992. Clark was able to showcase his musical talent along with a flair for comedy on the show.
In 1973, Clark scored his only No. 1 single, “Come Live With Me.” That same year, he took home the prestigious CMA award for Entertainer of the Year.
He often noted, however, that his concert tour of the Soviet Union in 1976 provided the highlight of his career. Clark became the first country music artist to play in the Soviet Union, which at that time had quite unfriendly relations with the United States. But Clark told “Country Weekly” in 2016, “I didn’t really have any misgivings about it. We just had to play our music.” The tour was a success and he returned to the Soviet Union in 1988 for another series of shows.
Clark received the ultimate honor when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009.