Published: Sat, November 17, 2018
Entertaiment | By Lawrence Myers

Hee Haw host Roy Clark dies at 85

Hee Haw host Roy Clark dies at 85

Roy Clark, acclaimed country musician and co-host of the long-running variety series Hee Haw, has died, Variety reports.

Jeremy Westby says Clark died Thursday due to complications from pneumonia at home in Tulsa, Okla.

He was first invited to the Grand Ole Opry as a teenager, after winning a national banjo competition in 1950.

Clark was "Hee Haw" host or co-host for its entire 24-year run, with Buck Owens his best known co-host. He was just one of those people you would call a natural.

In 1987, Clark became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

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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'.

Baseball legend Mickey Mantle, a longtime fan and friend of Clark's, requested that Clark perform "Yesterday, When I Was Young" at his funeral, a promise Clark kept when Mantle died in 1995.

Clark was born in Meherrin, Virginia, and received his first guitar on his 14th Christmas. 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".

The legendary Jimmy Dean noticed the talented young Clark and hired him to play on radio and TV in the Washington, D.C. area.

Country artist Roy Clark poses for a portrait circa 1973.

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Created as a countrified version of the comedy show "Laugh-In", "Hee Haw" originally aired on CBS but was canceled after two years in what became known as the "rural purge", when down-home shows such as "Green Acres" were canned in favor of programs that purportedly appealed to a younger, more sophisticated demographic.

In August, 1983, Mr. Clark played a pivotal role in establishing Branson, Mo., a small town in the Ozark Mountains, as a tourist destination when he became the first major country star to open a music venue there, the 1,500-seat Roy Clark Celebrity Theater. Clark signed with Capitol Records in 1963 and scored several top 10 hits on the country charts.

Roy Clark and Brad Paisley perform onstage at the 50th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., on November 2, 2016.

"My first CMA memory is sitting on my living room floor watching Roy Clark tear it up". The viewers were sort of part owners of the show.

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