TULSA, Okla. – Roy Clark, the legendary ‘superpicker’, GRAMMY, CMA and ACM award winner, Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry member and co-host of the famed ‘Hee Haw’ television series, died today at the age of 85 due to complications from pneumonia at home in Tulsa, Okla.
Roy Clark’s decade-defying success could be summed up in one word — sincerity. Sure, he was one of the world’s finest multi-instrumentalists, and one of the first cross-over artists to land singles on both the pop and country charts. He was the pioneer who turned Branson, Mo., into the live music capitol of the world (the Ozark town today boasts more seats than Broadway). And his talents turned Hee Haw into the longest-running syndicated show in television history.
But the bottom line for Roy Clark was the honest warmth he gave to his audiences. Bob Hope summed it up when he told Roy, “Your face is like a fireplace.”
“A TV camera goes right through your soul,” says the man who starred on Hee Haw for 24 years and was a frequent guest host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. “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.”
For a man who didn’t taste major success until he was 30, the key was not some grand plan but rather taking everything in its own time. “Sure,” he said, “I had dreams of being a star when I was 18. I could’ve pushed it too, but it wouldn’t have happened any sooner. I’m lucky. What’s happened has happened in spite of me.”
In fact, that’s what Clark titled his autobiography, My Life — In Spite of Myself! with Marc Elliot (Simon & Shuster, 1994). The book reminded many that there is much more to Roy Clark than fast fingers and a quick wit.
That he was raised in Washington, D.C., often surprises people. Born Roy Linwood Clark on April 15, 1933 in Meherrin, Virginia, his family moved to D.C. when he was a youngster. His father played in a square dance band and took him to free concerts by the National Symphony and by various military bands. “I was subjected to different kinds of music before I ever played. Dad said, ‘Never turn your ear off to music until your heart hears it–because then you might hear something you like.'”
Roy is preceded in death by his beloved grandson Elijah Clark who passed at the age of fourteen on September 24, 2018. Roy is survived by Barbara, his wife of sixty-one years, his sons 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.
A memorial celebration will be held in the coming days in Tulsa, Okla., details forthcoming.