Hee Haw Co-Host Roy Clark Dead at 85


Clark, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry, was beloved by generations of fans for his work on the TV show Hee Haw, which he joined in 1969, acting as joyful co-host for almost a quarter century. His publicist told CNN that the performer passed away Thursday in his Tulsa, Oklahoma, home of complications from pneumonia.

After years of touring and recording, he joined Buck Owens as the co-star of the CBS variety show "Hee-Haw".

Inspired by "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, ' "Hee Haw" first aired 1969 as a show promoting country music and rural culture".

In 1987, Clark became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He was also known for his instrumental versions of "Malaguena", on 12-string guitar, and "Ghost Riders in the Sky". Roy played the guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica and many other instruments. His skills brought him gigs as guest performer with many top orchestras, including the Boston Pops.

Beginning in 1983, Clark operated the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre in Branson, Missouri, and was one of the first country entertainers to open a theater there.

Born Roy Linwood Clark on April 15, 1933 in Meherrin, Va., he grew up mostly in Washington, D.C., and gained a love of all kinds of music early on.

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Prior to Hee Haw, Clark was a frequent musical guest on some of TV's biggest variety shows, including American Bandstand and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He started playing guitar at age 14, and a year later was performing in his father's square dance band. He had hits Yesterday and When I Was Young.

Clark's career really took off in 1960 when he was invited to perform in Las Vegas.

Victoria Hallman, who appeared on the long-running country show, said she's "just stunned" by his passing. Mr. Clark served as a host for its full run, while Owens - who later dismissed the program as a "cartoon donkey" - left in 1986. "The viewers were sort of part-owners of the show", he told the Associated Press in 2004.

Hallman's rep Ruth Elkins said Clark remained passionate about music until his death. "They identified with these clowns, and we had good music".

"This was the icing on the cake".