Musicians like Keith Urban and Brad Paisley offered up tributes to the legendary country performer and TV host
Country music trailblazer and Hee Haw host Roy Clark has died at his home in Tulsa, Okla., his publicist confirmed to the Associated Press on Thursday. The cause of death was reportedly complications from pneumonia. He was 85.
Clark was best known for his comedy and country music show Hee Haw, which he hosted for its entire 24-year run until the show ended in 1993. His most notable co-host was fellow country musician Buck Owens, but while Owens left the show in 1986, Clark stayed on until the end. In addition to corny jokes and recurring sketches, the show was also an important feature for country music performers. Clark also frequently guest-hosted The Tonight Show for Jonny Carson in the ’70s, a rare opportunity for a country performer.
In addition to being an affable TV host, Clark was also a skilled country musician himself. He started playing guitar at age 14, and a year later was performing in his father’s square dance band. He became skilled in all manner of stringed instruments, including the banjo, fiddle, and mandolin. Clark was a trailblazer, becoming one of the first country performers to open a theater in Branson, Missouri. Many others would follow the example of Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre. Clark even headlined a tour in the Soviet Union in 1976, when that was still a rare opportunity for American performers.
His biggest hit was 1969’s “Yesterday When I Was Young.” New York Yankees icon Mickey Mantle loved the song so much he implored Clark to play it as his funeral, a request which the musician honored when the time came in 1995.
After news of Clark’s death broke, several musicians and celebrities offered up tributes to his influence on them.