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Who Clyde Joy
When January 19, 2009
Where Salem, NH
What Country music pioneer Clyde Joy dies at 92
 

Clyde Joy, an old-time singer who helped popularize country music in New England and performed on WMUR for decades, passed away early yesterday morning. He was 92.

Joy, who performed alongside Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Jr., was at the forefront of country music as it developed a presence in New England. In the 1960s, he built the Circle 9 Ranch in Epsom, which became one of New England's most popular venues for country music.

"He's one of the real pioneers of country music up here," said Gordy Brown, who founded the New England Country Music Historical Society.

Joy was known as the "Grand Daddy of New England Country Music." Before him, nearly every country performance in the Northeast was a visiting act. "He was one of the ones who picked up," Brown said, "and made local country music something."

Dusty Cal Witham, who played with Joy for 40 years, put it this way: "When you think of country music in New England, most people know Clyde Joy."

Joy began playing guitar and entertaining while in high school, May Gibert said, "and that was his main living all his life."

Gibert, 88, was Joy's longtime partner. But she knew him long before that, when the two grew up together in Manchester.

He gained fame with his band, Clyde and Willie Mae Joy and the Country Folks, Willie Mae being his second wife. They performed on WMUR every Wednesday night, said Joy's son, Robert. His father, who got a divorce from Willie Mae in the 1970s, was also on WMUR's long-running Joy in the Morning show.

Clyde Joy loved country music, Gibert said, "because he said it comes from the heart."

"He was not a good guitar player," she added, "but he was a heck of an entertainer."

Joy was inducted into the New Hampshire Country Music Association's Hall of Fame in 1989.

Joy was also an accomplished yodeler. "He had a very clear resonant voice," said Witham, who is now a pastor in New York.

Joy kept performing into his old age, playing the Deerfield Fair until three years ago.

And among his biggest fans, his popularity hasn't waned. Joy received hundreds of cards each year, many from elderly women, Gibert said.

"It's a scream," she said. "I still get phone calls by the dozen around Christmastime."

Joy "had a great rapport" with people, Witham said. At the end of each show, he'd address his viewers.

"He'd say, 'Hey, you in the easy chair, keep smiling,' " Witham said. "And he'd point his finger at them. And everybody would relate to that."

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