The Reason This Rocker Recalls Roy Clark


Roy Clark, courtesy of Chicago Tribune.

Y'all know that as far as music goes I'm a rock and roll guy. I've broken the pattern once or twice, with blogs on Frank Sinatra and Broadway musicals, but one thing I have never written about is country music. I've driven by Toby Keith's (now closed) bar in Rosemont; I've enjoyed Keith Urban's wife in a variety of movie and TV roles; I've seen Blake Shelton yuck it up with Adam Levine on The Voice. But I have never played a country album or listened to a country radio station, and Branson, Missouri is not on my bucket list.

So I surprised myself when I stopped browsing and read the Tribune's obituary of Roy Clark today. He had some big country hits (the song Yesterday, When I was Young, seems familiar,) and had a reputation for being a great guitar player. But like much of America of the non-C&W persuasion, my memories of Mr. Clark were from Hee-Haw, the country-corn television show that debuted in 1969.

'69 was the Nixon Era, peace marches, men on the moon, and the best year in the history of rock music. Time Magazine called Middle Americans the "People of the Year." For this 13-year-old city boy, Hee-Haw was something very much out of my personal lunar orbit. Yet every week I watched Mr. Clark and his buddy Buck Owens as they strummed and picked and fiddled.

If you never saw the show, imagine a mash-up of Laugh-In and A Prairie Home Companion and you'll be on the right track. Of course, there were musical guests. Grandpa Jones and Minnie Pearl were on board. The jokes were quick and awful. And there were the Hee-Haw Honeys, though I would need to be older before I fully appreciated them.

I know my interest in the show faded after the first season. That hour of watching was too much too squeeze into my schedule or that of my city friends. I haven't thought about the show for years. But the mention of Roy Clark brought a smile to my face and a trigger to my temporal lobe. I guess country isn't that bad. Maybe I will head out to Branson some day. Want to join me?

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