As a kid, I watched Roy Clark for years on Hee Haw, a Saturday night staple for millions.
But I never had realized — perhaps I had forgotten — how talented a musician he was until 2010, when he was invited on stage at a Brad Paisley concert to play “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”
At 77-years-old, Clark brought down the house.
Seeking to see more of the same, we took our in-laws to Roy’ s 79th birthday bash on Friday night. Centered at floor level, we sat about 12 feet from the stage.
In a sequined, baby blue jacket, Clark walked stooped over and used a stool to ease a recently replaced hip.
He began with “Alabama Jubilee” and segued into many of his signature songs, including “Thank God and Greyhound.”
Clark, a virtuoso on banjo, fiddle and guitar, is a pleasure to watch pick. He contorts his face as he coaxes the most out of each note.
Part of his appeal is that he always seemed like your next door neighbor, a person you could sit around a table with and swap stories. He was at his breezy best with the audience Friday, at one point inquiring about his microphone to the sound engineer.
“Can you turn this up?” he said. ” I may something clever and I want everybody to hear it.”
Clark closed with two fiddle numbers, including a smoking rendition of “Orange Blossom Special,” with Jana Jae, also formerly of Hee Haw fame.
This wasn’t Roy Clark in his prime. His voice sounded weak. He sometimes rummaged in his pocket for picks that eventually fell to the floor.
But Clark, a Tulsan for decades, remains an American treasure and masterful instrumentalist.
We love ya, Roy.
Keep on pickin’. We’ll keep grinnin’.