Country Music People December 2018 - Page 61

Friday and Saturday night that Clark inevitably found himself playing every night of the week. He dropped out of school at 15 and it wasn’t long before the guitar wizard found himself touring with legends such as Hank Williams and Grandpa Jones. He won a banjo competition in 1950 and was invited to play The Opry. This led to shows with Red Foley and Ernest Tubb. In 1954, he joined Jimmy Dean and the Texas Wildcats, appearing in clubs and on radio and TV, and even backing up Elvis Presley. Clark’s big break came in 1960 with an invitation to open for Wanda Jackson at Las Vegas’ Golden Nugget. From there he was able to tour in his own right and by the time he returned to Vegas in 1962 he was headlining. His first album – The Lightning Fingers Of Roy Clark – featured his first hit (#10 in 1963), a version of Bill Anderson’s Tips Of My Fingers featuring orchestra and strings. “We didn’t call it crossover then but I guess that’s what it was,” he said. “We didn’t aim for that, because if you aim for both sides you miss them both. But we just wanted to be believable.” Clark continued to tour and release albums throughout the 60s and he became the go-to ‘bumpkin’ for many a TV show. Then however, along came Hee Haw in which he co-starred with Buck Owens. Despite only being made for two and half years the show went into syndication and was shown repeatedly until 1992. Clark recalled, “I long ago realised it was not a figure of speech when people come up to me and say they grew up watching me since they were ‘that big’.” The Hee Haw years helped the hits come thicker and faster for Clark with a #9 hit in 1969 with his version of Aznavour’s Yesterday, When I Was Young providing his biggest hit to date. I Never Picked Cotton reached #5 in 1970, and Thank God And Greyhound #6 the same year. However, in 1973 Clark enjoyed his first (and only) #1 with Come Live With Me. Among his other big hits were Somewhere Between Love And Tomorrow (#2 – 1973), Honeymoon Feelin’ (#4 – 1974), If I Had It To Do Over Again (#2 – 1976) although towards the end of the 70s and into the 80s whilst still signed to ABC/ Dot and then MCA Clark continued to chart but in the lower regions. Inducted into the Country music Hall Of Fame in 2009, Roy Clark was also a multi CMA and ACM winner and in 1982, he won a Grammy (Best Country Instrumental Performance) for Alabama Jubilee. His CMA trophies included Musician of the Year in 1977, 1978, and 1980. He was also Entertainer of the Year in 1973 and ‘Comedian’ in 1970. Clark also co-starred with Petula Clark at Caesar’s Palace, became the first country artist to headline at the Montreux International Jazz Festival and appeared on The Tom Jones Show in the UK. The highlight of his career, he said, was a pioneering, sold-out 1976 tour of the then- Soviet Union. “Even though they didn’t know the words, there were tears in their eyes when I played Yesterday. Folks there said we wouldn’t realise in our lifetime the good we’d accomplished, just because of our pickin’ around.” Clark became the 63rd member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1987 and had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Moving to Tulsa, OK in 1974 with Barbara, his wife of 61 years, Clark continued to tour extensively. At the end of each of Roy’s concerts, he would tell the audience, “We had to come, but you had a choice. Thanks for being here.” DECEMBER 2018 - cmp 61