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Though he jokes that Tulsa, Okla., is "where I keep my clean clothes," the road is still home for Roy Clark.
"I just talked to my wife," he reports. "She said, 'When are you coming home?' I said, 'Shortly.' She said, 'You've been saying that for 44 years!' "
He laughs his easy, generous laugh, but it's a fact that at 68, Roy is still a road warrior of the first order.
"I'm not burned out," he explains simply. "Some of the trips are long, and you get tired - but once you're onstage, you realize that's what you do. You are performing."
Roy took to the road with abandon following the 1993 cancellation of Hee Haw, the famous country variety show he co-hosted for 24 years. "I still miss the show," he says. "We built a family there - everyone was almost like blood kin."
One thing Roy misses about Hee Haw is his longtime co-host Buck Owens. "He doesn't travel, so the only time I see brother Buck these days is when I'm out in California, where he lives," says Roy. "We sit around and reminisce about the days that we shared."
After Hee Haw's cancellation, Roy opened his own theater in Branson, but soon found out he wasn't suited to the resident-landlord business. "When we were out on the road, I found myself worrying about the theater," he remembers. "I was afraid that some little old lady was going to hurt herself and sue ol' Roy! So I said, 'Wait a minute - let someone else own the theater, and I'll do what I've always done: perform.' "
So that's what he did, throwing himself back into the traveling life. Still, Roy hasn't given up on recording. He plans to make a new album using many of the same musicians he worked with in the 1960s, and additionally come up with a new instrumental CD. He would also like to do some more acting, and he's plotting another trip to Russia - his ground-breaking tours there in 1976 and 1988 stand among his most treasured music-business experiences.
Could Roy ever simply retire to his home in Tulsa and go fishing?
"That's a hard decision to make," he says, "because in the music business, you're either in it or you're out of it. I don't know if I can find it or not, but there's got to be a happy medium."
- Chris Neal