at Little Nashville Opry
by Tamela Meredith Partridge
Country entertainer, Roy Clark, has successfully honed a 40-year career out of just being himself.
“The biggest attribute I have is that I’m just ole Roy,” Clarks says, who is scheduled to perform at the Little Nashville Opry on Saturday, November 23 at 6 and 9:30 pm. “I remind women of their brothers or sons, and men aren’t intimidated by me. I don’t play or sing that far over their heads that they can’t say, ‘If I wanted to practice, I could do that, and besides, look at him. He’s no Greek god, that’s for sure.”
The Meherrin, Virginia native moved to Washington, DC with his family when he was a youngster. Beginning on banjo and mandolin, Clark was one of those people born with the music already in them. His first guitar, a Sears Silvertone, came as Christmas present when he was 14.
Clark began playing bars and clubs in DC on weekends until he was playing every night and skipping school—eventually dropping out at 15.
“I was subjected to different kinds of music before I ever played,” Clark says. “Dad said, ‘Never turn your ear off to music until your heart hears it—because then you might hear something you like’.”
After winning a national banjo contest in 1950, Clark was invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. The guitar wizard went on to tour with some of country music’s greatest legends, such as Hank Williams, Grandpa Jones, Red Foley, Ernest Tubb and Jimmy Dean.
Even though Clark toured all over the nation, he always returned to DC to play not only country, but jazz, pop and early rock ‘n’ roll.
“Music was my salvation, the thing I loved the most and did best,” Clark says. “Whatever was fun, I’d go do that.”
Opening for Wanda Jackson in 1960 at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas eventually earned the talented musician his own tour. He returned to Las Vegas in ’62 as the headliner of his own show and to promote debut album, “The Lightning Fingers Of Roy Clark.”
Clark’s debut country single, “Tips Of My Fingers,” topped the country and pop charts in ’63.
“We didn’t call ‘Tips Of My Fingers’ a crossover then,” Clark says, “but I guess that’s what it was. We didn’t aim for that, because if you aim for both sides you miss them both. But we just wanted to be believable.”
Since then, the 1987 Grand Ole Opry member has garnered numerous music industry awards and nominations. Clark has charted nine Top Ten country hits including, “Yesterday,When I Was Young,” “Thank God And Greyhound,” “Come Live With Me” and “If I Had It To Do All Over Again.”
The wholesome singer and musician also co-hosted the syndicated television series, Hee Haw with Buck Owens for 24 years.
“A TV camera goes right through your soul,” Clark says, who filmed his first Hee Haw episode in 1969. “If you’re a bad person, people pick that up. I’m a firm believer in smiles. I used to believe everything had to be a belly laugh. But I’ve come to realize that a real sincere smile is mighty powerful.”
Clark’s current album, “Roy Clark Live at Billy Bob’s, Texas,” is a 17-song collection recorded at the 100,000-square foot “Billy Bob’s Texas” nightclub in Fort Worth, Texas.
“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,” Clark says. “I keep a band of great young people around me and we’re not musically restrained—not ‘let’s do it correctly’ but ‘let’s do it right.’”
For Clark, maintaining a sense of humor has played an important part in his career longevity.
“Humor is a blessing to me,” Clark says. “My earliest recollections are of looking at something and seeing the lighter side. But it’s always spontaneous. I couldn’t write a comedy skit for someone else.”