Roy Clark Dead at 85
Roy Clark died Thursday (Nov. 15) at his home in Tulsa, Okla., due to complications from pneumonia, a press release reports. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry member, and former Hee Haw cast member, was 85 years old.
Born Roy Linwood Clark on April 15, 1933, in Meherrin, Va., Clark's family moved to Washington, DC, when he was a child. Thanks to his father, who played in a square dance band, Clark was learning about all different types of music before he picked up an instrument himself.
"Dad said, 'Never turn your ear off to music until your heart hears it -- because then you might hear something you like,'" Clark once reflected.
Clark first learned to play the banjo and the mandolin. He received his first guitar as a Christmas present when he was 14 years old; one year later, at the age of 15, he played his first paying gig, with his father's band (he earned $2). Clark soon dropped out of school and began touring with country acts such as Hank Williams and George Jones.
"Music was my salvation, the thing I loved most and did best," Clark said. "Whatever was fun, I'd go do that."
Clark was invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry after winning a national banjo competition in 1950. He continued performing with country greats including Ernest Tubb and Red Foley, among others, until, in 1960, he turned an invitation to open for Wanda Jackson at Las Vegas' Golden Nugget casino into his own tour.
Clark released his debut album, The Lightning Fingers of Roy Clark, in 1962. His first big hit, "The Tips of My Fingers," became a Top 10 song the following year. It would be another decade until Clark earned a No. 1 song, with 1973's "Come Live With Me."
The world of variety television came calling in the late 1960s, when Clark began co-hosting Hee Haw with Buck Owens. The show was a hit on CBS from 1969 until 1971, and remained in syndication from 1971 until 1993.
Clark joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1997. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2000 and Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
Clark is survived by his wife of 61 years, Barbara; children Roy Clark II (Karen), Dr. Michael Meyer (Robin), Terry Lee Meyer, Susan Mosier and Diane Stewart; four grandchildren; and his sister, Susan Coryell.
A public memorial service for Clark will take place on Nov. 21 at 11AM CT at the Rhema Bible Church in Broken Arrow, Okla., and will be streamed at Rhema.org; a private visitation is scheduled as well. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
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