Country music entertainer Roy Clark, who crossed over to the mainstream via the long-running variety show “Hee Haw,” died Thursday at his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was 85.
According to a statement from his publicist, Clark died due to complications from pneumonia.
Born Roy Linwood Clark in Meherrin, Virginia, in 1933, he spent part of his youth in Washington where his father played in a square dance band and inspired his son to take up the banjo and mandolin.
But it was the guitar that gave Clark his career. He got his first one when he was 14 and was playing gigs within in a year.
Clark was soon touring with country legend Hank Williams and first played the Grand Ole Opry in 1950, according to his publicist.
Clark’s career really took off in 1960 when he was invited to perform in Las Vegas. That was followed by his first country hit, “The Tips Of My Fingers.”
His biggest hit overall was “Yesterday When I Was Young,” a cover of a French song by Charles Aznavour that Clark turned into a top 20 pop hit in 1969.
Clark was a staple on both radio and TV throughout the 1960s, performing on nearly every variety show of that era.
In 1969, he got one of his own: “Hee Haw,” a rural-themed variety show he co-hosted with Buck Owens on CBS.
When the network canceled the show two-and-a-half years later, the program moved into syndication and aired until 1992.
In 1976, he became one of the first country stars to tour the Soviet Union, and in 1983 he was the first country star to open a theater in Branson, Missouri, according to USA Today. Branson has since become a major vacation destination known for its musical venues.
News of Clark’s death spurred Twitter tributes.
Clark is survived by his wife of 61 years, Barbara; his sister, Susan Coryell; five children and four grandchildren.
A memorial celebration will be held in Tulsa at a later date.