A South Dakota man has fond memories of his years touring with country music great Roy Clark, who died this week at the age of 85.   KELOLAND audiences know Kenny Putnam as the fiddler with the Red Willow Band.  But starting in the early 1980s, he toured with Roy Clark and even appeared on his Hee Haw TV show.  Putnam says Clark was a man of great style and even greater talent.

Roy Clark’s handlers surprised Kenny Putnam with a phone call that would lead to a musical whirlwind of national and international tours as well as TV appearances.

“I got this call out of the blue that said they were looking for fiddle players.  So I sent them a tape and a picture and got the gig, so it was unexpected, I wasn’t looking for it at all,” Putnam said.

Touring with Clark meant Putnam had to dress the part, wearing a tuxedo and cowboy boots.

“The first gig I had was at Spark’s Nugget in Reno, with a full orchestra behind us and Williams and Ree were the warmup act,”  Putnam said. 

Putnam played fiddle in Clark’s band on the Hee Haw TV show for nine seasons.

“Hee Haw was bad jokes and good music for so many years and it was terrific,” Putnam said.

Putnam says the highlight of his years with Clark was their historic 1988 friendship tour of the Soviet Union, back then, our Cold War adversary.  

“And he said that people are all the same and it’s our governments that create these barriers,” Putnam said.

Putnam says even though Cark’s passing was expected, it’s still sad to lose such a talented man whose musical skills touched audiences around the world.

“He’d always give you the warmest hugs and he was always so generous with, telling you he loved you,” Putnam said.

Putnam says performing on Hee Haw really tested musical skills.  That’s because he had to learn as many as six new songs for each show.  Quite a contrast from his concert tours when he’d play the same songs over and over again.  

Watch stories featuring Putnam and Clark from the KELOLAND Archives below