Country Music Hall of Fame member and entertainer Roy Clark passed away at the age of 85 on Thursday. According to his publicist, Clark died at his Tulsa, Oklahoma, home due to complications from pneumonia.
According to a report by the Tennessean, the fleet-fingered instrumentalist — who was best known for being a Hee Haw co-host for more than two decades — was celebrated as one of the most popular country music artists in the world.
Clark was also the guest host of The Tonight Show and collaborated with great artists like Hank Williams and blues star Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. According to the article, Clark not only brought heart and humor to audiences across the globe but also served as a source of inspiration for numerous pickers, including a young Brad Paisley, with his instructional guitar books.
In 2009 when Clark was inducted, his fellow Country Music Hall of Famer Harold Bradley praised him for his honesty and said that whether Clark is playing guitar or singing, he’s honest.
“Whatever he does, he sparkles.”
Born as Roy Linwood Clark on April 15, 1933, in Meherrin, Virginia, Clark was the oldest of five children. He inherited his musical acumen from his family and learned how to play banjo at an early age. However, it was the guitar that took his fancy the most. In a 1987 interview with Tennessean, Clark talked about his relationship with the guitar and said that it is something that came from within.
“When I strummed the strings for the first time, something clicked inside me.”
According to the article, Clark started playing behind his father at area square dances when he was a teenager and started performing on local radio and television soon afterward. In 2009, he said that he was very comfortable with the camera and called himself a “television baby.”
“At first, it wasn’t that I was so talented, but they had to fill time…So they’d say, ‘Well, let’s get the kid.’ Later, I got to where when I looked at the camera, I didn’t see a mechanical device. I saw a person.”
As the report detailed, Clark also won banjo-playing championships as a teenager, and in 1949, worked briefly on a show fronted by Hank Williams.
He was hired by Washington, D.C.-based television and radio performer Jimmy Dean but was fired because of frequently being late. According to a 1988 article published by the Tennessean, Clark revealed that Dean had told him that he would be a big star someday, but added that he couldn’t “afford to have someone like Clark” around at that time.
He also performed together with banjo player David “Stringbean” Akeman during his early days in Nashville and the duo played at every stage they could find.
“We would play drive-in theaters, standing on top of the projection booth. If the people liked it, they’d honk their horns,” Clark told the Tennessean in 2009.
In 1960, Clark joined a band by country artist Wanda Jackson to play guitar and open her shows at the Golden Nugget Hotel in Las Vegas, per the report. During one of the concerts, Ken Nelson — of Capitol Records — signed him as a solo artist.
“As a solo artist, Clark’s breakout hit in 1963 came when his version of Bill Anderson’s “Tips of My Fingers” hit No. 10 on the country charts, and he found crossover success with the 1969 smash “Yesterday, When I Was Young,” the report said.
The report further detailed that Clark is survived by his wife of 61 years, Barbara; his children Roy Clark II and wife Karen, Dr. Michael Meyer and wife Robin, Terry Lee Meyer, Susan Mosier, and Diane Stewart; and his grandchildren Brittany Meyer, Michael Meyer, Caleb Clark, Josiah Clark and his sister Susan Coryell.