The Pantagraph

Friday, April 12, 1996

Clark wears mantle of 'legend' well

By Karen Strawn

Special to The Pantagraph

   There is a difference between legends and superstars. Legends have history, superstars don't. Being in the presence of a legend has a certain feel of tranquil security that calms your heart and creates an inward smile.

   Country music legend Roy Clark did just that to more than 1,500 people when he brought his Branson, Mo., tour to Illinois State University's Braden Auditorium Thursday night.

   Again and again, Clark performs, doing more than 100 shows a year in his own theater in Branson, and again and again audiences get 100 per cent of Clark.

This show was no exception. Clark, consistent and confident, with his infectious smile, has his evening of entertainment timed so perfectly, you think he did it just for you.

   For Clark, his band members are high priority: no superstars here. He introduces them during his first song, he interacts with them as a friend and he plays music with them as an incredibly talented equal.

   For more than 25 years Clark hosted the popular country music TV show "Hee Haw," which he reminisced about during the show.

   "I hope ya'll are ready for some old-timey music, 'cause I'm about to lay some on ya..." Clark said as he began a tribute to the old gospel quartet that was featured on "Hee Haw."

   And lay it on he did. Clark's talent with the guitar is breathtaking. No wonder he wins so many awards and packs so many concert halls - he is a rare talent. He sang his first No. 1 hit from 1962, "Tips of My Fingers," and introduced "Thank God and Greyhound You're Gone" as the "most beautiful love song ever written.

   On the 12-string guitar, he did an awesome Spanish song called "Malaguena," which was s o beautiful the person next to me cried. He also sane a song about divorce (he didn't say that, but the words suggested it) called "You Can't Build a Fire in the Rain," that made the other person next to me cry.

   Clark's achievements defy all boundaries and categories. His Grammy-winning virtuosity is proven in his concerts. It's like breathing a breath of fresh air to experience a true, humble musician pouring his heart out for you in his music - it's a feeling of having been in the presence of a legend.