Rockabilly Star Sanford Clark Dead at 85 After Battling COVID-19
Sanford Clark, the early rockabilly star who influenced both Elvis Presley and Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, has died at the age of 85 after battling COVID-19 and cancer. The Associated Press reports that Clark died at Mercy Hospital in Joplin, Mo., on July 4, 2021.
Clark was born on Oct. 24, 1935, in Tulsa, Okla., and he was raised in Phoenix, Ariz., where he gave his earliest musical performances in the early 1950s. He scored his biggest hit, "The Fool," in 1956, reaching No. 7 on Billboard's Top 100. Presley would go on to record the song, as would the Animals.
Clark's publicist, Johnny Vallis, tells the AP that Presley recorded "The Fool" twice: once as part of his personal recordings while he served in the Army, and another professional recording for public release in the 1970s.
“You can hear that he’s trying to emulate Sanford’s sound,” Vallis observes. “You know, most people I know want to impersonate Elvis, and here Elvis was trying to impersonate him.”
People reports that Richards was also among the musicians Clark influenced. In Richards' 2010 memoir, Life, he recalls Clark's "Son of a Gun" as one of the first songs he ever performed onstage.
Clark scored several other minor musical successes in the '50s and '60s, according to the AP, and he subsequently left the music business to work in construction. He continued to record off and on for his own label, Desert Sun Records, over the years.
Vallis tells the AP that Clark had been undergoing treatment for cancer at Mercy Hospital before contracting COVID-19.
Sanford Clark is survived by his wife, Marsha, and several children.