R.I.P. Roy Clark, country music icon and 'Hee Haw' host
The television and recording star was 85.
Image: The Everett Collection
There were plenty of variety shows in the 1970s and 1980s, but none brought people together quite like Hee Haw. The jokes were corny (sometimes quite literally), the music was country, and the subject matter as well-worn as a pair of denim overalls. But that's what people loved about the show.
When TV was turning more controversial, Hee Haw remained wholesome, attracting millions of viewers every week and lasting an impressive 25 seasons.
Roy Clark, who co-presented the show alongside Buck Owens, was a large part of that appeal. The twosome became the Rowan and Martin of Nashville. With a banjo or guitar strapped around his body, Clark chipped in musically, plucking and singing as part of the show's Hee Haw Gospel Quartet and "Million Dollar Band."
Few people were better suited for the job. Clark's resume was bedazzled with career highlights like rhinestones. By the time Hee Haw kicked off in 1969, he had a handful of Top 40 country smashes to his credit, including the crossover hits "The Tips of My Fingers" and "Yesterday When I Was Young," not to mention ten albums under his belt.
Clark's television career dated back to the mid-'50s, when the young guitar-slinger worked on Jimmy Dean's program. He acted on The Beverly Hillbillies, playing Roy Halsey, and even went on to guest-host The Tonight Show when Johnny Carson would occasionally take a break.
Clark would co-host or host Hee Haw for its entire 24-year run, up until 1993. In 2009, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
On Thursday, November 15, Clark died due to complications from pneumonia at his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 85.
Clark had lived much of his life in Tulsa. In 1978, Tulsa's Union School District named Roy Clark Elementary School in his honor.