100 Greatest Men: #55. Roy Clark

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June 3, 2012

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

Thanks to a long-running syndicated television show, well-rounded entertainer Roy Clark was one of the most familiar country music personalities for more than two decades.

He grew up along the eastern coast of America, born in Virginia and living in both Staten Island, New York and Washington D.C.  Even in his youth, he refused to limit himself, pursuing boxing and baseball as passionately as the banjo.   Still, by age 17 he had performed on the Grand Ole Opry.   His stellar musicianship scored him a spot backing Jimmy Dean, and he made several appearances on Dean's D.C. television show.

After further stints backing Hank Penny and Wanda Jackson, his solo career took of in the sixties.¬† Though he was never a consistent hitmaker, he did record two signature songs during this decade: “The Tips of My Fingers” for Capitol in 1963, and “Yesterday, When I Was Young” in 1969.¬† He was better known for his appearances on variety shows and sitcoms like the Beverly Hillbillies.

His true legendary status came when he signed on as co-host of Hee Haw, the country knock-off of the very popular Laugh In.   The show was a ratings smash when it debuted in 1969, and after switching to syndication in 1971, it would remain a television staple until 1992.   Clark's combination of musicianship and humor made him an icon for the genre during an era where it still received  limited exposure on television.

The show's early run raised his profile on the radio as well, and he scored seven top ten hits between 1970 and 1976, including his only #1 single, “Come Live With Me.”¬†¬† After winning the CMA award for Comedian in 1970, he was named the Entertainer of the Year in 1973.¬†¬† With the advent of cable television, Clark received further exposure on televised episodes of the Grand Ole Opry, which finally made him a member in 1987.¬†¬† He also helped establish Branson, Missouri as a mecca for country legends, opening his own theater there in 1983.

Clark was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

Essential Singles:

  • Tips of My Fingers, 1963
  • Yesterday, When I was Young, 1969
  • I Never Picked Cotton, 1970
  • Thank God and Greyhound, 1970
  • Come Live With Me, 1973
  • If I Had to Do it All Over Again, 1976

Essential Albums:

  • The Lightning Fingers of Roy Clark, 1962
  • Yesterday, When I was Young, 1969
  • Roy Clark Live!, 1972
  • Roy Clark's Family Album, 1973
  • The Entertainer, 1974
  • Roy Clark in Concert, 1976

Next: #54. Hank Thompson

Previous: #56. Bobby Bare

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  1. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar says:

    Like Jimmy Dean, Roy Clark is important for the fast array of his talents, rather than for any one thing in particular. His live show was especially memorable. Had Roy never had a hit record he would still have been important to the genre

  2. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    I was aware of Roy Clark and Buck Owens on Hee-Haw years before I ever had the slightest interest in country music.

    Had no idea at the time that they were two brilliant talents.

  3. bobNo Gravatar says:

    I recall that Mickey Mantle was a fan of Roy Clark. From http://www.themick.com – When Mickey heard Roy Clark sing the song, “Yesterday When I Was Young,” he felt it summed up his life very well. He asked Roy if he would sing it at his funeral. Roy did on August 15, 1995.

  4. DiamondNo Gravatar says:

    He was THE reason Branson took off. His decision to go there and perform in his own theater every night turned a fun little town near a lake into a destination for millions in the years that followed. It was infuriating to me that it took until 2009 for him to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, but I am glad he’s there. There are a number of clips on Youtube of Roy playing guitar that are just amazing.

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