Roy Clark Part One
Roy Clark on the set of A Conversation With Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, Tulsa, in 2014
|Birth name||Roy Linwood Clark|
|Born||April 15, 1933 (age 85)
Meherrin, Virginia, U.S.
|Occupation(s)||singer, musician, TV Host|
|Instruments||Guitar, vocals, banjo, fiddle, harmonica, mandolin|
|Associated acts||Hee Haw|
Roy Linwood Clark (born April 15, 1933) is an American singer and musician. He is best known for hosting Hee Haw, a nationally televised country variety show, from 1969 to 1997. Roy Clark has been an important and influential figure in country music, both as a performer and helping to popularize the genre.
During the 1970s, Clark frequently guest-hosted for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show and enjoyed a 30-million viewership for Hee Haw. Clark is highly regarded and renowned as a guitarist and banjo player, and is also skilled on classical guitar and several other instruments. Although he has had hit songs as a pop vocalist (e.g., “Yesterday, When I Was Young” and “Thank God and Greyhound”), his instrumental skill has had an enormous effect on generations of bluegrass and country musicians. He has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1987 and, in 2009, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Clark was born in Meherrin, Virginia. Roy grew up in Staten Island, New York and lived as a teenager in southeast Washington, D.C., where his father worked at the Washington Navy Yard. At 14, Clark began playing banjo, guitar, and mandolin, and by age 15 he had already won two National Banjo Championships and world banjo/guitar flatpick championships. He was simultaneously pursuing a sporting career, first as a baseball player and then as a boxer, before dedicating himself solely to music. At 17, he had his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.
At the age of 23, Clark obtained his pilot’s license and then bought a 1953 Piper Tri-Pacer (N1132C), which he flew for many years. This plane was raffled off on December 17, 2012, to benefit the charity Wings of Hope He has owned other planes, including a Mitsubishi MU-2, Stearman PT-17 and Mitsubishi MU-300 Diamond 1A bizjet.
By 1955, he was a regular on Jimmy Dean’s Washington, D.C., television program. Dean, who valued punctuality among musicians in his band, the Texas Wildcats, fired Clark for habitual tardiness, telling him, “You’re the most talented person I’ve ever fired.” Clark married Barbara Joyce Rupard on August 31, 1957. In 1960, Clark went out to Las Vegas, where he worked as a guitarist in a band led by former West Coast Western Swing bandleader-comedian Hank Penny. During the very early 1960s, he was also prominent in the backing band for Wanda Jackson—known as the Party Timers—during the latter part of her rockabilly period.
When Dean was tapped to host The Tonight Show in the early 1960s, he asked Clark to appear, introducing him to a national audience for the first time. Subsequently, Clark appeared on The Beverly Hillbillies as a recurring character (actually two: he played businessman Roy Halsey and Roy’s mother, Myrtle). Once, in an episode of the Sunday evening Jackie Gleason Show dedicated to country music, Clark played a blistering rendition of “Down Home”. Later, he appeared in an episode of The Odd Couple, where he played “Malagueña”.
In 1963, Clark signed to Capitol Records and had three top ten hits. He switched to Dot Records and again scored hits. He later recorded for ABC Records, which had acquired Dot, and MCA Records, which absorbed the ABC label.