Roy Clark (Roy Linwood Clark)

Roy Clark

Roy Clark

Country star Roy Clark, the legendary singer and multi-instrumentalist with an ear-to-ear smile who headlined the hit TV show “Hee Haw” for nearly a quarter century, has died. He was 85.

A rep for the singer told Fox News Clark died on Thursday at his Tulsa, Okla., home due to complications from pneumonia.

“‘Hee Haw’ won’t go away. It brings a smile to too many faces,” Clark said in 2004, when the show was distributed on VHS and DVD for the first time.

Clark played the guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica and other instruments. His skills brought him gigs as a guest performer with many top orchestras, including the Boston Pops. In 1976 he even headlined a tour of the Soviet Union, breaking boundaries that were usually closed to Americans.

And of course, he also was a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

His hits included “The Tips of My Fingers” (1963), “Yesterday When I Was Young” (1969), “Come Live With Me” (1973) and “Honeymoon Feeling” (1974). He was also known for his instrumental versions of “Malaguena,” on 12-string guitar, and “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”

He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009, and emotionally told the crowd how moving it was “just to be associated yourself with the members of the Country Music Hall of Fame and imagine that your name will be said right along with all the list.”

In his 1994 autobiography, “My Life in Spite of Myself,” he said “Yesterday, When I Was Young” had “opened a lot of people’s eyes not only to what I could do but to the whole fertile and still largely untapped field of country music, from the Glen Campbells and the Kenny Rogerses, right on through to the Garth Brookses and Vince Gills.”

Clark was a guest host on “The Tonight Show” several times in the 1960s and 1970s when it was rare for a country performer to land such a role. His fans included not just musicians, but baseball great Mickey Mantle. The Yankees outfielder was moved to tears by “Yesterday When I Was Young” and for years made Clark promise to sing it at his memorial — a request granted after Mantle died in 1995.

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. Dozens followed him.

He was a touring artist as late as the 2000s. Over the years, he played at venues around the world: Carnegie Hall in New York, the Sporting Club in Monte Carlo, the Grand Palace in Brussels and the Rossiya Theatre in Moscow.

Clark was born in Meherrin, Virginia, and received his first guitar on his 14th Christmas. He was playing in his father’s square dance band at age 15.

In the 1950s, Clark played in bands in the Washington, D.C., area. In 1960, he got the chance to front the band of country singer Wanda Jackson. He also performed regularly in Las Vegas. He got his first recording contract, with Capitol Records, in 1962.

He appeared on Jimmy Dean’s TV show “Town and Country Time” and took over the show when Dean left.

In 1997 he released “Roy Clark’s Christmas Memories.”

Born

  • April, 15, 1933
  • Meherrin, Virginia

Died

  • November, 15, 2018
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma

Cause of Death

  • complications of pneumonia

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