NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Country music luminary Roy Clark, star of the syndicated TV comedy show 'Hee Haw,' is taking his banjo, his guitar and his group on a short tour in November.
One problem is they won't make any money from their appearances. Another problem is they have to raise the raise the money to finance the tour.
Clark and his group are taking their successful stage show to the Soviet Union for six concerts in Moscow and six in Leningrad.
To partially finance the 'Roy Clark Friendship Tour' a black-tie fund-raiser and tribute to Clark, with the venerable Bob Hope as host, is scheduled in Nashville Sept. 9. Individual tickets are priced at $100; tables can be reserved $5,000.
Another major fund-raiser is a national radio promotion in which U.S. citizens can send a personal message to the Soviet people on a giant 'Friendship Card.' Clark plans to present the card to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and it will be on exhibit at the Friendship House in Moscow.
'I am representing the American people,' said Clark. 'I am not interested in Gorbachev or the Communist Party, or as far as that goes, our own government. I want this to say that the people of America care about you the Russian people.
'People are people are people. I have been finding out all my life that when you get away from governments, religion and such that people have the same love of family. They want the same things for their children.
'What we want to do is get that close identification that they can see that the American people do care. It's not going to be what they are fed by Tass and Pravda.'
Clark's last appearance in the Soviet Union was in 1976, where he and his group staged a number of mini-concerts.
'We would perform in music conservatories and friendship houses for their music students and in return they would perform for us,' he said.
'We drew people into these mini-concerts that the embassy just looked at (us) with their mouth open. They had been trying to reach these people and get them involved and to get to talk to them. They couldn't do it on a strictly political basis.'
For this trip, he'll be performing in larger quarters.
'We will play much larger halls this time,' Clark said. 'Back in '76 every show was completly sold out to the point where they were scalping tickets in the streets.
'They were scalping them for 85 rubles, and when you consider that the average Russian only makes 165 rubles a month, that's pretty high.'
Still, a trip to the Soviet Union has its responsibilities and Clark said the group is aware that 'we have to be really sharp about what we say and do both on and off the stage.'
The 1976 tour was part of a cultural exchange program, where costs were underwritten by the respective governments, but this time Clark has to rely on private financing.
'The government does not fund the way they used to,' said Clark. 'Our government is offering their expertise. If we have any problems, they will tell us where to go to get those problems solved. If we need anything, they will tell us where to go to get it. But we have to come up with the money.
'This is not a money-making project at all. It's going to take $250,000 just for expenses. We are not doing this for the money.'
Another problem he will face on the tour is finding a translator who can turn Clark's brand of country comedy into Russian idiom, but he already has someone in mind.
'The last time I found a guy, a young man, who studied American cinematography. So he was sort of Americanized to a point,' he said. 'I didn't know what I was going to do. I knew if I cut out all the garbage that I say on stage it would make for a very short show.
'So what I did was call him out on the first show and he stood there. I was pretty straight with him on that night and he would interpret it and tell the audience.
'It went so smoothly that by the second day I was throwing him curves and didn't cut out one thing. He would stop and look at me and his eyes would get real big and then he would tell it to the audience in Russian. We got laughs, big laughs.
'An embassy official who spoke Russian said the guy was incredible. He had taken all that American slang and put it into Russian slang.'
Clark said Russians are undergoing a sort of folk music revival of their own and find kinship with country music. 'They view country music as authentic American music,' he said.
Considering Clark's talent, the music is one part of the show that will need no translation.