It’s fun to remember those who made an impression with their lives or their career, and whether you liked his music or not, everybody remembers something about Porter Wagoner.
If you’ve read this site since its debut in 2010, I personally enjoy writing memorials about some of the great performers that have died over the years – commemorating the date of their passing.
Actually, just this week I received an email from one reader (Norma) who expressed that she enjoyed those blogs because they brought back memories of growing up and listening to the likes of Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Red Sovine, George Jones, and others on the radio. I’ve written about each of these in the past. And, it’s been a while.
So today marks the anniversary of one of country music’s most colorful figures, Porter Wagoner, who died on this date, October 28, 2007…from too many Lucky Strikes.
Wagoner grew up in rural Missouri and became a popular fixture in country music by the mid-50s, joining the Grand Ol’ Oprey in 1957. By the mid 60s he had launched a syndicated weekly TV show that aired for the next 21 years and featured such up-and-coming names as Dolly Parton, with whom Wagoner sang duets for decades. It is Wagoner who’s credited for giving Parton her start and initial popularity.
They toured together for several years and back in the mid-70s I walked into the restaurant at the old Howard Johnson motel in Piqua one morning, at route 36 and I-75, to get breakfast. There, sitting by themselves in a booth, likewise having a bite to eat amidst a large cloud of blue cigarette smoke, was Porter and Dolly.
There was no one else in the room and no one made a fuss over their celebrity, if they even knew. I nodded and he spoke, smiling, friendly…and visibly tired from a show the previous night somewhere in Michigan. They were headed back to Nashville. When I left I looked out back of the motel and there was their bus, the side of which boldly read, in colors as garish as the outfits he wore on stage…The Porter Wagoner Show.
He was known for his homespun lyrics (Green, Green Grass of Home and Company’s Comin’) and those onstage outfits that featured more rhinestones than cloth. And of course, always the pompadour haircut. Many liked his music, while in later years more contemporary country fans disregarded him and his generation for being too hillbilly. I imagine that didn’t matter to Wagoner. He was still working…still cashing the checks.
He was 80 when he died of lung cancer but his popularity lives on through the countless country and gospel recordings you still hear on satellite radio….on Willie’s Road House, Sirius XM channel 59. No one ever looked like, sang like, or was nicer to meet than Porter Wagoner.
I can personally attest to that.