'Hee Haw' and Country Music Star Roy Clark Dies at 85


Roy Clark, best known to TV audiences as co-host of the long-running country music variety series Hee Haw, has died at the age of 85.

Publicist Jeremy Westby said Clark died Thursday due to complications from pneumonia at home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Clark became a banjo national champion and was invited to play the Grand Ole Opry in Tennessee.

Most listeners knew him from their television screens, where he filled in for Johnny Carson as a guest host of "The Tonight Show", played recurring characters on "The Beverly Hillbillies" and, beginning with the show's premiere in 1969, co-hosted "Hee Haw" with singer Buck Owens. He was just one of those people you would call a natural.

Clark went on to become a staple of Las Vegas showrooms and Atlantic City casinos and performed at leading venues such as Carnegie Hall in NY and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, the country music mecca where he was enshrined as a member in 1987. "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. He recorded hits like "The Tips Of My Fingers", "If I Had It To Do All Over Again" and "Thank God And Greyhound You're Gone".

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

Inspired by "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, ' "Hee Haw" first aired 1969 as a show promoting country music and rural culture".

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The country music world lost one of its all-time greats this week when Roy Clark passed away.

In 1982 Clark won the Grammy for best country instrumental performance for "Alabama Jubilee". He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009 and was a longtime member of the Grand Ole Opry. Performing at storied venues such as New York's Carnegie Hall, the Sporting Club in Monte Carlo and the Rossiya Theatre in Moscow, Clark remained a popular touring act as late as the 2000s.

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

"Roy Clark was a very sweet Man that loved Jesus and country music", he tweeted. The viewers were sort of part owners of the show. He got his first recording contract, with Capitol Records, in 1962.

Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Barbara Joyce Rupard; five children; a sister; and four grandchildren.