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Roy Clark - Country Guitar Legend
When you hear the name Roy Clark, you probably think of the TV show Hee Haw.
However, if you look beyond that show, you will find that Roy can play just about anything with strings.
Roy is a legend in country music, a television personality and natural entertainer. His career has taken him from music to TV.
Roy was born in 1933 in Virginia, and grew up in Staten Island, New York. When he was 14 Roy began learning the banjo, guitar, and mandolin. He won two National Banjo Championships and world banjo/guitar flat-pick championships at age 15. At the young age of 17, he played his first show at the Grand Old Opry in Nashville. Of course, the Grand Old Opry is the Carnegie Hall of country music. To perform there at age 17 was quite an achievement.
At the age of 20 in 1955, Roy became a regular on Jimmy Dean’s television show. Unfortunately, Roy was fired from this job, as Dean was very picky about his musicians being on time for the show. Jimmy Dean was famous for the hit song, Big John, and his Jimmy Dean sausages.
After being fired by the future sausage king, Roy headed to Las Vegas where he found work for a western swing bandleader by the name of Hank Penny. He also worked for Wanda Jackson during her rockabilly years.
Sausage king Dean asked Roy to appear with him on the Tonight Show in the early 1960s. This appearance exposed Roy to the TV largest audience in America, as Johnny Carson reigned supreme on late night TV.
By 1963, Roy had signed to Capitol Records, where his song Tips of My Fingers made the top 10.
Through the Eyes of a Fool made it to #31 on the country charts in 1964 with When the Wind Blows in Chicago made it to #37 in 1965.
In 1968, Roy began his acting career on the Beverly Hillbillies, playing a business man named Roy and dressing in drag as Roy’s mother.
In 1969, Roy’s career really took off when he was hired, along with the great Buck Owens, to host a country version of Laugh-In called Hee Haw.
The show became a success, until 1971 when CBS dropped it because the over-the-top country humor did not fit the hip image they wanted. The show was moved into syndication, where it became a staple on our TV on Saturday nights around 6 p.m. As a young budding guitar player, I was always interested in great guitar playing and the guitars used on this show. Roy always made a solo appearance, playing, guitar, violin, banjo and mandolin.
Roy sometimes acted the backwoods country guy, appearing in the corny sketches. If you could look past all that, there was some fantastic music, with Roy a part of it all. The show ended in 1997 but it is still around, on DVDs and in syndication. Hee Haw was only one part of Roy’s life. The success of the show helped him sell records, with the hits I Never Picked Cotton, Thank God and Greyhound, Come Live With Me, Somewhere Between Love and Tomorrow, Honeymoon Feelin’ and I Had It to Do All Over Again. Roy also guest-hosted for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show numerous times in the 1970s and made appearances on the Odd Couple, (playing the song Malaguena) and the Muppet Show.
By 1983, Roy opened the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre in Branson, Missouri. This venue was the first of its kind, as no other music star had their own theater to perform in. Branson became the country music capital of the Midwest in the years since.
In 1987, Clark was made a member of the Grand Ole Opry and in 2009, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Roy lives in Oklahoma with his wife, Barbara, where he still performs, flies his airplanes and rides his motorcycles.
A few of Roy’s awards are:
- Entertainer of the Year, Academy of Country Music
- Comedy Act of the Year, Academy of Country Music
- Picker of the Year, Playboy Magazine's Reader's Poll
- Best Country Guitarist, Guitar Magazine
- Grammy Award for "Alabama Jubilee"
- Earned an Honorary Doctorate Degree from University of Northern Alabama.
For guitar gear, Roy used Gibson and Gretsch guitars, and now endorses Heritage Guitars.
Roy Clark has influenced countless guitarists, and has enjoyed a stellar career that has lasted many decades.