"I'm a-pickin'... And he's a-grinning... Back when I was a kid, much to my parent's horror, I grooved to the finely-honed hick schtick of Roy Clark and Buck Owens and all their Hee-Haw compatriots. Throughout the 1970s, Clark was a beaming, beatific presence on the media scene, appearing in sit-coms, variety shows and celebrity roasts, not to mention dressed up in overalls and patched-up jeans on good old Hee-Haw... and he always seemed like a consummate showman, which, of course, he was. You could always tell that Roy Clark was talented, but it wasn't until many years later that I realized how good and how versatile a musician he was -- his strengths as a country musician always seemed obscured by the mix of cornball comedy and the cheesy pop stylings of his own albums. But when you come across the good stuff -- his work backing Wanda Jackson or his collaborations with banjoist Buck Trent or bluesman Clarence Gatemouth Brown... Well, those are revelations. Here's a quick look at a mighty talented picker and a mighty complicated career...
Roy Clark "Greatest Hits" (Varese Sarabande, 1995)
(Produced by Joe Allison & Jim Fogelsong)
A nice, representative set of Hee Haw host Roy Clark's dozen-plus Top 40 hits recorded for Dot Records in the early 1970s... Most of these songs are slurpy, syrupy "stylized" countrypolitan classics, music made for a weepy Vegas lounge show, with Roy at his most overwrought and over-seriously pretentious... There are a few unexpected gems, though, such as the humorous 1972 "protest" song, "The Lawrence Welk-Hee Haw Counterrevolution Polka" (written by Vaughan Monroe, no less!!), about the abortive cancellations of two of the squarest TV shows of the early '70s... Mostly these are pretty sappy love songs, string-laden uptown tunes... Unless you're on a big countrypolitan kick, or you were a fan back when these songs first came out, this disc might be a little hard to get into... But it sure is kitschy!
Roy Clark "Greatest Hits, v.2" (Varese Sarabande, 1997)
Since most of Clark's albums remain out of print, these best-of sets are just about the only way to hear his old stuff, other than haunting the bargain bins for all that old used vinyl... This second set gives us more of the same, some slick, poppy stuff, leavened with glimmers of his pure, raw talent. Sure wish more of the rootsy recordings were available as well.
Roy Clark "Roy Clark's Greatest" (Capitol, 1969)
For many years this was the standard best-of collection, and it still holds up well today. A concise selection of his old Capitol stuff from the 1960s, before he signed with Dot Records. Worth a spin!
Roy Clark "The Best Of Roy Clark" (Curb, 1991)
Roy Clark "...Sings And Plays Gospel Greats" (Finer Arts, 1999)
Roy Clark "The Best Of Roy Clark" (Compendia, 2005)
Roy Clark "The Very Best Of Roy Clark" (Time-Life, 2005)
Roy Clark "The Roy Clark Anthology" (Reader's Digest, 2011)
A 3-CD set...
Roy Clark "The Lightning Fingers Of Roy Clark" (Capitol, 1962)
A great showcase for Clark's super-slick picking... This album has a smooth pop/easy listening feel, but is riveting nonetheless as Clark works his way through a variety of styles, recalling pickers such as Les Paul, Joe Maphis and Chet Atkins, along with a strong hint of the rock guitars of the surf scene and folks like Mickey Baker or Johnny & Santo. Also, if you've heard his electrifying leads on those classic Wanda Jackson songs, it's cool to hear the same kind of licks in an all-instrumental setting. Recommended.
Roy Clark "The Roy Clark Show Live From Cheyenne Wyoming" (Capitol, 1962)
Roy Clark "...Sings The Tip Of My Fingers" (Capitol, 1963)
Roy Clark "Happy To Be Unhappy" (Capitol, 1964)
Roy Clark "Guitar Spectacular!" (Capitol, 1965)
Roy Clark "Roy Clark Sings Lonesome Love Ballads" (Capitol, 1966)
Roy Clark "Stringin' Along With The Blues" (Capitol, 1966)
Roy Clark "Do You Believe This" (Dot, 1968)
Roy Clark "Urban, Suburban" (Dot, 1968)
Roy Clark "Yesterday, When I Was Young" (Dot, 1969)
Roy Clark "The Everlovin' Soul Of Roy Clark" (Dot, 1969)
Roy Clark "I Never Picked Cotton" (Dot, 1970)
Roy Clark "The Incredible Roy Clark" (Dot, 1971)
Roy Clark "The Magnificent Sanctuary Band" (Dot, 1971) (LP)
Roy Clark "Roy Clark Country" (Dot, 1972)
Roy Clark "Live!" (Dot, 1972)
Roy Clark "Come Live With Me" (Dot, 1973)
Roy Clark "Superpicker" (Dot, 1973)
Roy Clark "Roy Clark's Family Album" (Dot, 1973)
Roy Clark "The Entertainer" (ABC/Dot, 1974)
Roy Clark "Classic Clark" (ABC/Dot, 1974)
Roy Clark "Family And Friends" (ABC/Dot, 1974)
Roy Clark "Heart To Heart" (ABC/Dot, 1975)
Roy Clark & Buck Trent "A Pair Of Fives (Banjos, That Is)" (ABC/Dot, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Foglesong)
A sizzling set of instrumental banjo duets, with slick but uncrowded pop-country production... Most songs have modest bass-drums rhythm behind them and some guitar in the background, as well as several hotshot fiddlers playing on various tracks -- Johnny Gimble, Tommy Jackson and Buddy Spicher -- though unfortunately they dont say who plays on which tracks. Mostly, it's all about the banjos, though, and they are dazzling. With both Clark and Trent playing on five-string, they double up on shared riffs as well as interweave their leads as the mood strkes them. Includes a fun, funky improv version of "Duelin' Banjos," and the title track lets the whole band cut loose on a wider arrangement. This is a tightly-arranged, slickly produced set, but it's punchy and electrifying rather than sterile. Not a lot of variety in the production or the musical approach, though, so it might be best taken in small doses. If you want to hear Roy Clark showing off his banjo chops, this is a greta place to start.
Roy Clark "In Concert" (ABC-Dot, 1976)
Roy Clark "My Music And Me: Vocal And Instrumental" (ABC/Dot, 1977)
Roy Clark "Hookin' It" (ABC-Dot, 1977)
Roy Clark "Labor Of Love" (ABC, 1978)
Roy Clark & Buck Trent "Banjo Bandits" (ABC, 1978)
Roy Clark & Clarence Gatemouth Brown "Makin' Music" (MCA, 1979)
Roy Clark "My Music" (MCA, 1979)
Roy Clark "Back To The Country" (MCA, 1980)
Roy Clark "Last Word In Jesus Is Us" (MCA, 1981)
Roy Clark "Turned Loose" (Churchill, 1982) (LP)
Roy Clark "The Roy Clark Show Live From Austin City Limits" (Churchill, 1982) (LP)
Roy Clark "Rockin' In The Country" (Silver Dollar, 1986)
Roy Clark "Great Picks And New Tricks" (BRD, 1993)
Roy Clark "Live In Branson" (Delta-Laserlight, 1993)
Roy Clark & Joe Pass "...Play Hank Williams" (Buster Ann, 1994)
A slick, soft-jazz set covering the work of country legend Hank Williams, just two guitars and light percussion. Not a lot of twang here, though the melodies are familiar, in a gooey-sounding kind of way. Honestly? Unless you're a smooth jazz fan, you can skip this one.
Roy Clark "My Favorite Hymns" (Intersound, 1995) (CD-R)
Roy Clark "Live At Billy Bob's Texas" (Image, 2000)
Hick Music Index