Roy Clark, County Music Legend, Dies at 85

Roy Clark and Brad Paisley perform onstage at the 50th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena

Roy Clark and Brad Paisley perform onstage at the 50th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena

Country legend Roy Clark - the Grammy victor, Grand Ole Opry member, Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, and seven-time Country Music Association Awards recipient known for his guitar-picking virtuosity and longtime stint on the beloved country variety show Hee Haw - has died at age 85.

He was 85 years old, and died Thursday at his home in Tulsa, Okla. due to complications from pneumonia.

He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009, and emotionally told the crowd how moving it was "just to be associated yourself with the members of the Country Music Hall of Fame and imagine that your name will be said right along with all the list".

Clark was "Hee Haw" host or co-host for its entire 24-year run.

"'Hee Haw' won't go away. 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. Clark also frequently guest-hosted The Tonight Show for Jonny Carson in the '70s, a rare opportunity for a country performer.

But Clark was a country star in his own right, and an incredibly accomplished (and often underrated) musician who earned acclaim for his hit instrumental versions of "Malaguena" and "Ghost Riders in the Sky". A master guitarist, banjoist, fiddler and mandolinist, Clark was conversant in many styles of music, as apt to play jazz, blues and rock & roll as country and bluegrass. 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.

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But it was the guitar that gave Clark his career.

In the 1950s, Clark played in bands in the Washington, D.C., area. His father, who played in a square dance band, took him to see the National Symphony Orchestra and military bands.

But Clark hit his big break in 1960, when he was invited to Las Vegas to open for country artist Wanda Jackson. Clark signed with Capitol Records in 1963 and scored several top 10 hits on the country charts. My first guitar book was a Roy Clark guitar method.

Victoria Hallman, who appeared on the long-running country show, said she's "just stunned" by his passing. Shown between Owens and Clark is actor Ernest Borgnine, a guest on that episode.

'We became a part of the family.

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