'Hee Haw' and Country Music Star Roy Clark Dies at 85

Toby Graves
November 17, 2018

Clark was a Grammy, ACM and CMA award victor, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

"Clark was a fixture in country fans" living rooms for almost a quarter-century, from 1969 to 1993, as the co-host of Hee Haw alongside Buck Owens.

Created as a countrified version of the comedy show "Laugh-In", "Hee Haw" originally aired on CBS but was canceled after two years in what became known as the "rural purge", when down-home shows such as "Green Acres" were canned in favor of programs that purportedly appealed to a younger, more sophisticated demographic. In addition to corny jokes and recurring sketches, the show was also an important feature for country music performers. He had almost two-dozen Top 40 country hits, including "The Tip of My Fingers", "Yesterday, When I Was Young" and "I Never Picked Cotton". "Clark also displayed his six (or, in the case of his cover of "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky, 12)-string prowess with his instrumental covers of pieces like "Malagueña". Not only did he play with the Boston Pops, but he did a music tour in the Soviet Union in 1976 - during the Cold War.

Clark won a Grammy Award for best country instrumental performance for the song "Alabama Jubilee" and earned seven Country Music Association awards including entertainer of the year and comedian of the year.

He was a touring artist as late as the 2000s. He was 14 when he got his first guitar - a Christmas present, according to the AP - and within a year was playing in a square-dance band with his father, who also played the guitar, fiddle and banjo.

In the 1950s, Clark played in bands in the Washington, D.C., area.

But it was the guitar that gave Clark his career. In 1960, Clark opened for Wanda Jackson in Las Vegas, and would go on to co-headline in Lake Tahoe with Andy Griffith and appear on Dick Clark's American Bandstand in the years that followed.

The gig, and an ensuing national tour, launched him to prominence and helped him land a record deal with Capitol Records, with whom he recorded his 1963 debut, "The Lightning Fingers of Roy Clark".

Clark and Owens worked together for years, but they had very different feelings about "Hee Haw".

In fact, Clark became known for his warm, wide smile, so much so that Bob Hope once told him, "Your face is like a fireplace" according to a press release following Clark's passing.

'We became a part of the family.

"Roy Clark made best use of his incredible talent", said Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young in a statement on Thursday morning.

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