Clark was born in Meherrin, Virginia. Roy grew up in Staten Island, New York and lived as a teenager in southeast Washington, D.C., where his father worked at the Washington Navy Yard. At 14, Clark began playing banjo, guitar, and mandolin, and by age 15 he had already won two National Banjo Championships and world banjo/guitar flatpick championships. He was simultaneously pursuing a sporting career, first as a baseball player and then as a boxer, before dedicating himself solely to music. At 17, he had his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.
At the age of 23, Clark obtained his pilot's license and then bought a 1953 Piper Tri-Pacer (N1132C), which he flew for many years. This plane was raffled off on December 17, 2012, to benefit the charity Wings of Hope. He has owned other planes, including a Mitsubishi MU-2, Stearman PT-17 and Mitsubishi MU-300 Diamond 1A bizjet.
By 1955, he was a regular on Jimmy Dean's Washington, D.C., television program. Dean, who valued punctuality among musicians in his band, the Texas Wildcats, fired Clark for habitual tardiness, telling him, "You're the most talented person I've ever fired." Clark married Barbara Joyce Rupard on August 31, 1957. In 1960, Clark went out to Las Vegas, where he worked as a guitarist in a band led by former West Coast Western Swing bandleader-comedian Hank Penny. During the very early 1960s, he was also prominent in the backing band for Wanda Jackson—known as the Party Timers—during the latter part of her rockabilly period.
When Dean was tapped to host The Tonight Show in the early 1960s, he asked Clark to appear, introducing him to a national audience for the first time. Subsequently, Clark appeared on The Beverly Hillbillies as a recurring character (actually two: he played businessman Roy Halsey and Roy's mother, Myrtle). Once, in an episode of the Sunday evening Jackie Gleason Show dedicated to country music, Clark played a blistering rendition of "Down Home". Later, he appeared in an episode of The Odd Couple, where he played "Malagueña".
In 1963, Clark signed to Capitol Records and had three top ten hits. He switched to Dot Records and again scored hits. He later recorded for ABC Records, which had acquired Dot, and MCA Records, which absorbed the ABC label.
In the mid '60s, he co-hosted, along with Buck Owens, a weekday daytime country variety series for NBC entitled "Swingin' Country", which was cancelled after two seasons. In 1969, Clark and Buck Owens were the hosts of Hee Haw. The show was dropped by CBS Television in 1971 but continued to run in syndication for twenty-one more years. During its tenure, Clark was a member of the Million Dollar Band and participated in a host of comedy sketches. In 1983, Clark opened the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre in Branson, Missouri, becoming the first country music star to have his own venue there, thus beginning a trend which led to Branson becoming a center of live music performance, as it is today. Many of the celebrities who play in Branson first performed at the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre.
Clark frequently played in Branson during the 1980s and 1990s. He has since sold the venue (now owned by the Hughes Brothers and renamed the Hughes American Family Theatre) and gone back to a fairly light touring schedule, which usually includes a performance with Ramona Jones and the Jones Family Band at their annual tribute to Clark's old Hee Haw co-star Grandpa Jones in Mountain View, Arkansas.
In addition to his musical skill, Clark has often displayed his talents as a comedian and actor. During his years on Hee Haw, Clark entertained with numerous comedy sketches, including a recurring feature where he played the reservation desk clerk of the "Empty Arms Hotel". Clark released several albums of his comedic performances, to varying critical acclaim and commercial success. Clark is one of the few surviving regular male cast members from the show.
Clark has endorsed Mosrite, Gretsch, and many other brands of guitars during his career. He currently endorses Heritage Guitars, which makes a Roy Clark model. On August 22, 1987, Clark was made a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He plays an annual benefit concert at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, the proceeds of which go to fund scholarships for aspiring musicians.
Clark is married to his wife Barbara whom he married in 1957 and they have 4 children.
For many years Clark has made his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Roy Clark Elementary School in Tulsa's Union School District was named in his honor in 1978. Fellow Oklahoma resident Mickey Mantle arranged for Clark to sing "Yesterday When I Was Young" at his funeral (which Clark did in 1995).
Clark published an autobiography, My Life in Spite of Myself, in 1994.
On May 17, 2009, Clark was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame along with Barbara Mandrell and Charlie McCoy. On September 23, 2010, Clark sang "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch at Dodger Stadium in a game featuring the Los Angeles Dodgers versus the San Diego Padres. On April 12, 2011, Clark was honored by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He was honored by the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame as Oklahoma's Music Ambassador for Children and presented with a commendation from Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.Matilda (1978)
Uphill All the Way (1986)
He has appeared on numerous television programs:Swingin' Country 1966 NBC daytime variety series, co-starred with Rusty Draper and Molly Bee
Five episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies as "Cousin Roy" (1969)
294 episodes of Hee Haw (1969-1992)
Swing Out, Sweet Land (1970)
The Flip Wilson Show (1971)
Love American Style (1973) (episode "Love and the Twanger Tutor" as Jesse Clemens)
The Odd Couple (1975) (episode "The Roy Clark Show" as Willie Boggs)
The Bell Telephone Jubilee (1976)
The Captain & Tennille Special (1976)
Fair Weather Friends (1977)
Hanna-Barbera's All-Star Comedy Ice Revue (1978)
The Muppet Show (1978)
Fifty Years of Country Music (1978) CBS television special, featuring Clark, Dolly Parton and Glen Campbell as co-hosts.
Austin City Limits (1980, 1982)
EPCOT Center opening celebration (1982)
Disneyland's 30th Anniversary Celebration (1985)
6th Annual National Songwriter Awards (1986)
The Grand Ole Opry 65th Anniversary (1991)
The Grand Ole Opry 70th Anniversary (1996)
A Bing Crosby Christmas (1998)
Clark, Roy; Eliot, Marc (1994). My Life in Spite of Myself. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-86434-7.
1970 - CMA - Comedian Of The Year
1972 - ACM - Entertainer Of The Year
1973 - ACM - Entertainer Of The Year
1973 - CMA - Entertainer of the Year
1975 - CMA - Instrumental Group Of The Year (with Buck Trent)
1976 - CMA - Instrumental Group Of The Year (with Buck Trent)
1977 - CMA - Instrumentalist Of The Year
1978 - CMA - Instrumentalist Of The Year
1980 - CMA - Instrumentalist Of The Year
1982 - Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance for his recording of Alabama Jubilee