Roy Clark was a young boy when he got some sage advice about music that he's used to guide his entire career.
“My dad played music — never as a living, but he was a good guitar player and banjo player — and he told me something very early in my life,” Clark, 78, said in a phone interview from his home in Tulsa, Okla.
“He said, ‘Don't close your mind off to anything you hear that is new until your heart hears it. At first, you may hear something that you don't really think is your cup of tea, but if you listen to it long enough with an open mind and an open heart, you'll hear something that is going to inspire you.'”
Clark is best known as a country singer and as the co-host of the classic TV variety show “Hee Haw” — impressive credentials, indeed, but not ones that instantly reveal the diversity the Virginia native has displayed as a professional musician for the past six decades.
A guitar virtuoso and a highly respected multi-instrumentalist, Clark has delved into an assortment of genres ranging from country and bluegrass to jazz and rock 'n' roll.
One of his earliest jobs, in fact, was as a sideman for Wanda Jackson just as she was transitioning from rockabilly to country in the early 1960s.
“That's what started me trying to build a career of my own,” Clark said. “I was playing clubs around Washington, D.C., and I guess that's where I was going to be (for the rest of my life). … And then Wanda came to town, and we met through some mutual friends, and she said she was getting ready to open in Las Vegas and that she was putting a band together to go to the Golden Nugget.”