Published: Sat, November 17, 2018
Entertaiment | By Minnie Bishop

Roy Clark, country guitar virtuoso, ‘Hee Haw’ star, has died

Roy Clark, country guitar virtuoso, ‘Hee Haw’ star, has died

Clark hosted the beloved Hee Haw for almost 25 years, beginning in 1969, where he helped usher country music into the national spotlight-even spreading it to global ears, too (he once trail-blazed a tour across the Soviet Union).

Country artist Roy Clark poses for a portrait circa 1973. He was 14 when he got his first guitar - a Christmas present, according to the AP - and within a year was playing in a square-dance band with his father, who also played the guitar, fiddle and banjo. A master guitarist, banjoist, fiddler and mandolinist, Clark was conversant in many styles of music, as apt to play jazz, blues and rock & roll as country and bluegrass.

The album featured rollicking electric-guitar instrumentals, including "Texas Twist", and it was followed that same year by Clark's first hit song, "The Tip of My Fingers", written by country singer Bill Anderson. The country music and comedy show's last new episode aired in 1993, though reruns continued for a few years thereafter.

Roy Linwood Clark was born in Meherrin, Virginia, on April 15, 1933, and grew up near a pig farm in Southeast Washington.

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"The camera was very kind to me, and I consider myself to be a television baby", Clark said in a 2009 interview. He had almost two-dozen Top 40 country hits, including "The Tip of My Fingers", "Yesterday, When I Was Young" and "I Never Picked Cotton". In 1976 he headlined a tour of the Soviet Union, breaking boundaries that were usually closed to Americans.

Beginning in 1983, Clark operated the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre in Branson, Missouri, and was one of the first country entertainers to open a theater there. In 1960, he fronted Wanda Jackson's band, and two years later he landed his first label contract, with Capitol Records. His skills brought him gigs as guest performer with many top orchestras, including the Boston Pops.

Victoria Hallman, who appeared on the long-running country show, said she's "just stunned" by his passing.

Clark was a Grammy, ACM and CMA award victor, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009. The viewers were sort of part owners of the show.

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