Today’s featured event:
Join Country Music Hall of Famer Roy Clark & Friends for his 80th Birthday Bash at 7 tonight at River Spirit Casino Event Center, 8330 Riverside Parkway. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Clark’s decades-defying success can be summed up in one word — sincerity. Sure, the longtime Tulsan is one of the world’s finest multi-instrumentalists, and one of the first crossover artists to land singles on both the pop and country charts. He was one of the pioneers who turned Branson, Mo., into the live music capital of the world (the Ozark town today boasts more seats than Broadway). And his talents helped turn “Hee Haw” into the longest-running syndicated show in television history.
Today, renowned good guy Clark remains one of the most popular of entertainers as he looks for new opportunities on stage, on record and on TV. Although he sold his Branson theater in 1997, he still tours some 150 dates a year. Branson fans get many opportunities to see that “fireplace face,” but so do fans from coast to coast.
After winning a national banjo competition in 1950, the Virginia native was invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry, which led to shows with Red Foley and Ernest Tubb. Yet he’d always return to Washington, D.C., where he grew up, to play not only country but jazz, pop, and early rock’n'roll (he’s prominently featured in the recent book “Capitol Rock”); to play with black groups and white groups; to play fast, to even play guitar with his feet. In 1954, he joined Jimmy Dean and the Texas Wildcats, appearing in clubs and on radio and TV, and even backing up Elvis Presley.
Throughout the ’60s, Clark recorded several albums, toured constantly, and appeared on TV variety shows from Carson to Mike Douglas to Flip Wilson. “I was the token bumpkin. It became, ‘Let’s get that Clark guy. He’s easy to get along with,’” he said in a news release.
Then came “Hee Haw.” A countrified “Laugh-In” with music, shot in Nashville, “Hee Haw” premiered in 1969. Co-starring Clark and Buck Owens, it was an immediate hit. Though CBS canceled the show after 2 1/2 years, despite ranking in the top 20, the series segued into syndication, where it remained until 1992.
“I long ago realized 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,” he said in the release.
A generation or two has also grown up listening to him. In 1969, “Yesterday, When I Was Young” charted top 20 pop and No. 9 country (Billboard). Including “Yesterday,” Clark has had 23 top 40 country hits, among them eight top 10s: “The Tips Of My Fingers” (No. 10, 1963), “I Never Picked Cotton” (No. 5) and “Thank God And Greyhound You’re Gone” (No. 6, 1970), “The Lawrence Welk-Hee Haw Counter Revolution Polka” (No. 9, 1972), “Come Live With Me” (No. 1) and “Somewhere Between Love And Tomorrow” (No. 2, 1973), and “If I Had It To Do All Over Again “(No. 2, 1976). In addition, his 12-string guitar rendition of “Malaguena” is considered a classic and, in 1982, he won a Grammy (Best Country Instrumental Performance) for “Alabama Jubilee.”
Clark’s many good deeds on behalf of his fellow man led to him receiving the 1999 Minnie Pearl Humanitarian of the Year Award from TNN’s Music City New Awards. In October 2000, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, and he is actively involved with school children who attend the Roy Clark Elementary School in Tulsa.
From his home in Tulsa, where he moved in 1974 with Barbara, his wife of now 50+ years, Clark continues to tour extensively. For him — and for his legion of loyal fans — live performance is what it’s all about.
“Soon as you hit the edge of the stage and see people smiling and know they’re there to hear you, it’s time to have fun. I keep a band of great young people around me, and we’re not musically restrained. It’s not about ‘let’s do it correct’ but ‘let’s do it right,’” he said in the release.
At the end of each of Clark’s concerts, he tells the audience, “We had to come, but you had a choice. Thanks for being here.” With responding smiles, audiences continue to thank Roy Clark for being there, too.
For more information, go to www.riverspirittulsa.com/entertainment/eventcenter.
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