Roy Clark was one of the greatest pure musicians in the history of country music. In addition to his amazing prowess on the acoustic guitar, Roy was a stud on electric guitar, violin, and banjo, among others.
Of course, there’s an entire generation of TV and music fans who mostly identify Roy as the co-host of the long-running TV show, Hee Haw. For more than 20 years, Roy was popping out of Hee Haw‘s famous cornfield to deliver a rapid-fire zinger or joke. Or he was mesmerizing us with his banjo and guitar pickin’ alongside co-host Buck Owens.
And if that’s all you know about Roy Clark, that’s okay. Roy was insanely proud of his work on Hee Haw. But Roy was a musical force. Let me repeat that. Roy was a musical force—a once-in-a-lifetime talent. When you start talking about the greatest guitarists in country music, Roy’s name better be on the list with Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, and more. I’m also partial to Glen Campbell and Ricky Skaggs. And if you really want to start digging around, watch some old clips of Merle Travis or Lester Flatt.
Roy was a staple of the country charts in the 1970s with hits like “Come Live With Me,” “Honeymoon Feelin’,” “If I Had to Do It All Over Again,” and more. Thankfully—and rightfully—Roy was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
In the 1970s, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more well-known country star throughout the world. In fact, in 1976, Roy—along with the Oak Ridge Boys—became the fist country star to play concerts in the Soviet Union. Roy played 18 shows that were broadcast to millions of people. Perhaps his frenetic guitar picking helped thaw a little bit of the Cold War.
Roy was so damn likeable, he’d pop up on your TV when you least expected it. In the late 1960s, he appeared in a handful of episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies play the part of Cousin Roy. Or maybe you saw him playing the fiddle on an episode of The Drew Carey Show in the 1990s. Or maybe you saw every week during his 294 episodes of Hee Haw.
Nevertheless, my favorite TV performance by Roy was his appearance on The Odd Couple in 1975. Without going through the entire plot-line, Roy played the role of Willie Boggs, an old Army friend of Oscar (Jack Klugman). Felix (Tony Randall) wanted the wise-cracking Willie to become a classical violist. Of course, hilarity ensued.
But during the last three minutes of the show, there wasn’t any hilarity. Roy strummed an amazingly dexterous rendition of “Malaguena” on an acoustic guitar. “Malaguena” was originally composed by Ernesto Lecuona in 1933. Roy’s flamenco stylings left Jack and Tony (who had both ceased “acting”) in total awe.
Enjoy the show.