Rockabilly Performer Sanford Clark Dead at 85 From COVID-19

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) -- Rockabilly and country performer Sanford Clark, who had a Top 10 hit with "The Fool" in 1956, has died in a Missouri hospital from COVID-19. He was 85.

Clark died Sunday at Mercy Hospital in Joplin, where he had been receiving cancer treatment before he contracted the coronavirus, his publicist and fellow performer Johnny Vallis said Monday.

Clark was born on Oct. 24, 1935, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and raised in Phoenix, where he first began performing in the early 1950s. "The Fool" reached No. 7 on the Billboard Top 100. The song was later recorded by several other well-known artists, including Elvis Presley and The Animals.

Presley actually recorded the song twice, the first time as part of his personal recordings while he was serving in the Army, then again for professional release in the 1970s, Vallis said.

"You can hear that he's trying to emulate Sanford's sound," Vallis said. "You know, most people I know want to impersonate Elvis, and here Elvis was trying to impersonate him."

Presley's not the only rock 'n' roll legend to ever imagine themself in Clark's shoes. People reports that the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards cited the Oklahoman as an influence and wrote in his 2010 memoir Life that Clark's "Son of a Gun" was one of the first songs he performed on stage.

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Clark recorded several other songs in the 1950s and 1960s that saw minor success before he left the music business to work in construction, though he occasionally recorded in later decades on his own label, Desert Sun Records.

Sanford is survived by his wife, Marsha, and several children.

For a taste of Clark's country side, check out the reissue of They Call Me Country, which features guest guitarist Waylon Jennings.

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Rockabilly Performer Sanford Clark Dead at 85 From COVID-19