Monday, October 29, 2007

Hey, Porter



Porter Wagoner, 80, has passed away. One of the last of the sequin-spangled showmen from the Golden Age of Country music, Wagoner succumbed to cancer last night in Nashville. Wagoner was co-host of the Grand Old Opry (along with Little Jimmy Dickens) since 1996, following the death of Minnie Pearl. He celebrated his 50th year on the Opry stage in 2007.

Porter released his last record, "Wagonmaster", earlier this year. Produced by Marty Stuart, the album received great reviews and with the re-release of Wagoner 's "Rubber Room", a collection of left-of-center Country tunes, put Wagoner in the spotlight once again. He was tapped to be the opening act at the White Stripes' Madison Square Garden gig, and by all accounts, tore the place up.

Best known for the hits "A Satisfied Mind" (later covered by The Byrds on the Turn! Turn! Turn! album), "Green, Green Grass of Home", "Carroll County Accident", and "Go Down Swinging", a fabulous shuffle written by Bill Anderson, Wagoner was a master of the "story song" and is credited with the first "concept album" in country music.

In 1967 he discovered a big-haired singer from Sevierville, Tennesse and put her on his TV show, which had begun in 1960. Porter and Dolly Parton had several hit singles as a duet. Parton wrote "I Will Always Love You" about her relationship with Wagoner upon leaving his show to pursue her enormously successful solo career.

Wagoner belongs on the same pedestal as Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and the other legends in Country music. His refusal to follow trends and ability to gig until just weeks before his death - 50 years at the Opry - negates the need for bigger fame and more hit records. He lived the life, sang about the life, and he went down swinging.

Thanks, Porter.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Porter Wagoner was the man!

29/10/07 16:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had the pleasure of meeting the man. He was also fantastically friendly in person, clearly loved his work and his life.

29/10/07 16:46  
Blogger Kelly said...

Thanks for the nice write-up. My late father used to tune into Mr. Wagoner's show every week, and I didn't appreciate it then. Now, I'd love to go back and sit with Dad and watch Porter, Speck Rhodes, and Dolly or "pretty Miss Norma Jean".

"Wagonmaster" is a great album, and a fitting tribute to the man.

29/10/07 16:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never cared for Dolly Parton because Porter bumped Norma Jean off the show to make room for her. I had a crush on Norma Jean all during my childhood. RIP, Porter.

By the way, "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" is one of my top-five favorite albums and "Satisfied Mind" is not on it, great a song as it is.

29/10/07 16:59  
Blogger Tom Spaulding said...

Oops. Thanks for the note. It was "Turn! Turn!Turn!" that "Satisfied Mind" showed up on...even before SOTR.

29/10/07 17:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just remember all his personal, in show ads for Black Draught Tonic. Never understood what it did, but Porter swore it worked. That, and SSS tonic.

29/10/07 18:24  
Blogger JazzBass said...

man, i loved speck. that whole bit with the phone was my raison du saturday. growing up in tennessee, liking porter was as natural as having biscuits and gravy on sunday morning. God bless him.

May he rest in peace.

and don't forget the nudie suits!

29/10/07 18:48  
Blogger JazzBass said...

man, oh man! i used to love speck. he was my raison du saturday.

God bless Porter. growing up in tennessee, he was as natural as biscuits and gravy on a sunday morning.

Great post, Tom.

May he rest in peace.

(and don't forget the "nudie" suits and the Hi! inside his jacket. showman, singer, bandleader, businessman. those kind don't come along too often anymore)

29/10/07 18:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bumped into him several times while working at Opryland.

He seemed kind of quiet, yet when approached was always friendly and kind. Such gentle eyes, and he smelled wonderful :-)

29/10/07 19:14  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A well written and obviously sincere tribute to Mr. Wagoner. Good job, Tom!

30/10/07 05:04  
Blogger submandave said...

I could never pass Tony Alamo's without thinking about Porter. His musical generation embodied a unique combination of sincerity, faith and what we might think of today as innocence that is not likely to return.

30/10/07 09:53  

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