Roy Clark, country music icon & ‘Hee Haw’ star, dead at 85

Roy Clark, the Country Music Hall of Famer whose wizardry on stringed instruments and comedic skills made him a star on TV variety shows, has died. He was 85.

Clark passed away Thursday due to complications from pneumonia at his home in Tulsa, Okla.

Known as the “superpicker,” the beloved entertainer was one of the first crossover artists to land singles on both the pop and country charts. Clark’s talents turned Hee Haw, the classic primetime country variety show, into the longest-running syndicated program in TV history. He hosted or co-hosted the show with Buck Owens for its entire 24-year run. But Clark wasn’t just loved for his talents on the stage. The musician was also known for his sincerity and kindness.

“A TV camera goes right through your soul,” Clark once said. “If you’re a bad person, people pick that up. I’m a firm believer in smiles. I used to believe that everything had to be a belly laugh. But I’ve come to realize that a real sincere smile is mighty powerful.”

Born in Meherrin, Va., in 1933, Clark received his first guitar at age 14. He quickly became proficient at guitar, banjo, and mandolin, and was invited to play at the Grand Ole Opry in 1950 after winning a banjo competition. In the late 1950s and 1960s, Clark became a regular on Jimmy Dean’s local TV show, Town and Country Time, and had a recurring role on the classic comedy show The Beverly Hillbillies.

Clark also achieved success as a recording artist, with Top 10 hits like ‘I Never Picked Cotton,’ ‘Thank God and Greyhound,’ and ‘Yesterday When I Was Young.’ His success on the charts and on stage helped him turn Branson, Mo., into a prime live country music destination.

Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009, Clark has won a Grammy, seven CMA awards, and two ACM trophies.

He is survived by Barbara, his wife of 61 years, his sons, and his grandchildren. A memorial celebration will be held in the coming days in Tulsa, Okla.

Hear Clark’s music on Willie’s Roadhouse (Ch. 59).


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