Roy Clark: Pickin' And Grinnin' For Soviets As
Country Music's Goodwill Ambassador
Themes of World Peace And Friendship Highlight Roy Clark's Soviet Tour
Roy Clark on tour: "A message of love and peace
our people to their people."
When one imagines an Emissary of Peace representing America in the Soviet Union, a husky
country music singer from Tulsa is not the first image that comes to mind. But then, emissaries
are not always musicians, and Roy Clark is no ordinary performer.
Clark, best known for his pickin' and grinnin' on television's Hee Haw program,
became the first country music entertainer to perform in the Soviet Union in 1976. He is
returning there Nov. 15-27 for a concert tour of Soviet cities including Moscow and
"This whole tour is to bring people closer together," spoke the country music star. "I
believe that the problems of this world can be solved by the people of this world. When we
went to the Soviet Union in 1976, it was obvious to me then that people are just people, all
over the world. Only governments are different."
Clark believes his musical appearances will accomplish much more than provide diversion for
the Russian people. During his first Soviet tour twelve years ago, his concerts created a
politically non-threatening atmosphere for U.So Embassy and Soviet officials to come together.
As a result, meetings were set up between both factions to frankly discuss the issues
confronting them, something the U.S. officials had been unable to arrange for years.
"We were told by the people there in the American Embassy that we did more good than we
would ever realize in our lifetime," said Clark.
Clark's new single, What A Wonderful World, recently recorded for Hallmark Records
and due to be released in an album next month, will be a featured high spot in the Soviet
performances. The song, a country music adaptation of the tune of the same name made famous by
singer Louis Armstrong in the forties, aptly expresses the sentiments of the tour: Peace and
Friendship among all peoples of the world.
"This song speaks of the positive things of this world, not the negatives," emphasizes the
entertainer of Hee Haw fame. "This is the only world we've got, and we've got to learn to
live in it together."
"We expect the song to be a hit," spoke Tommy Martin, President of Hallmark Records, "not
only with Soviet audiences, but with people here as well. The response from concert-goers and
radio stations thus far has been better than anticipated."
Roy Clark and Bob Hope at fund raising
for Clark's Soviet tour.
Plans for the Soviet tour were first officially announced at a fund raising banquet in
Nashville last September entitled "A Salute To Roy Clark." More than a dozen well-known
comedians, singers, actors and politicians including Brenda Lee, Sen. Albert Gore, Jr. and Bob
Hope cracked jokes and praised Clark's goodwill efforts in order to help pay for his
"Roy Clark is going to Russia," said Hope. "They'll love him over there. It'll be fifty
more points for our side."
Additional finds for the tour were raised through "Friendship Cards," special tokens of
support given by well-wishers at Clark's concerts in the U.S. this past year. In return, Clark
has promised to send each donor a postcard from Moscow as a keepsake and a remembrance that
they were a part of his tour for Peace.
"I'm going to display these cards on stage and explain to the Soviet citizens this is a
message of love and peace from our people to their people," spoke Clark. "On the final night,
I'm going to present them to Mr. Gorbachev, and he has indicated that he will put them on
permanent display in a Friendship House."
Clark's decision to go on the current Russian tour was in part prompted by an invitation
from the Soviet Premier himself. "Gorbachev wanted to expand the relations between the
entertainers of our countries," said Clark. "He personally invited Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder
and myself back, because I had been there before."
Does Roy Clark have other international concert tours planned for the future? "There's a
possibility," replied the entertainer, "that this tour could lead to a more extended tour of
the Soviet Union later on, and we've also discussed the possibility of going to Red
For the present, it's the Soviets who will savor the unique musical charms of this unlikey
emissary—blue jeans, country banjo, fiddle and all. He'll sing and they'll feel, if but
for fleeting moments, what it feels like to be an American.
*Reprinted with permission, Better World Magazine