When I was a kid, I wanted to be a musician. I was obsessed with sound and songs, taping all my favorite TV themes and taking them with me wherever I went. Car ride? I’m listening to the opening to Magnum PI.
I wanted to learn an instrument and play all my favorite stuff. And the coolest instrument I knew of was the guitar.
Lo and behold: one Christmas, I got one.
There it was, in all its shining glory: the Roy Clark Country Pickin’ Guitar.
It was beautiful. With a decorative strap, a streak of red, and a chord book.
I played the guitar and imagined I was Roy — I’d seen him on Hee Haw, a really funny show where super hot chicks popped up in a corn field, and cool overall’d hicks did, too. They told funny jokes and then went back into the corn. Now that I think about it, they were pretty corny jokes. Now I’m sensing a theme.
Hee Haw was hosted by Roy Clark and Buck Owens. Buck was so laid back and cool, but I was particularly fascinated by Roy. His personality, humor, and smiling face comprised a charisma I wished I had. Owens & Clark were large and in charge, pickin’ and grinnin’ like a couple pros. Pros who could tear up their guitars.
We lost Buck — who had 21 country hits on the Billboard charts — in 2006.
And today — November 15, 2018 — we’re saying goodbye to Roy.
The star — who led Hee Haw for nearly a quarter century and hit the charts with songs such as “Yesterday, When I was Young” and “Thank God and Greyhound” — passed away in Oklahoma due to complications from pneumonia. He was 85.
In 2004, speaking of the show that made him a star, he said it’ll go on forever:
“Hee Haw won’t go away. It brings a smile to too many faces.”
I hope he’s right.
During the program’s broadcast — from 1969 to 1997 — it served up great American entertainment for the whole family.
At the time, that was nothing of note.
But the modern age has brought with it a creeping vulgarity, infiltrating every component of the culture, including — in recent years — politics.
This new era finds national leaders using the “F” word, politicians shooting our president the bird, and TV pundits calling those in the White House pornographic names (see the decline here, here, here, here, and here).
Hee Haw — and the legacy of Grammy, CMA, and ACM Award winner Roy — is no longer just a reminder of a musical era; it’s a distant cultural standard to which we should aspire.
Not so long ago, parents and their children gathered around the TV, not to watch people argue or witness the latest moral atrocity splayed across their 65-inch set, but to enjoy wholesome time together, by way of ideals that unified rather than splintered.
For that, in part, I thank Roy Clark. He led the brigade each week, for over two decades.
Maybe tonight, instead of turning on the boob tube to take in the worst Hollywood and humanity has to offer, fire up the YouTube, and let it take you back to a — not just simpler time — but a better time.
A time that could be again. If we would only turn back to better ways.
Enjoy the videos below.
Thank you, Roy Linwood Clark. 1933-2018.
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