Sunday, October 28, 2007
– Country star Porter Wagoner, 80, died tonight at 8:25 at Alive Hospice in Nashville after being diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this month.
The Missouri native, known for his rhinestone suits, had a long career, which included a series of hits with Dolly Parton.
"The Grand Ole Opry family is deeply saddened by the news of the passing of our dear friend, Porter Wagoner. His passion for the Opry and all of country music was truly immeasurable. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this difficult time," said Pete Fisher, vice-president and general manager of The Grand Ole Opry.
Born in West Plains, Mo. in 1927, Wagoner was first a local radio fixture on his way to becoming a pillar of the Grand Ole Opry, a hit recording artist, television icon and a Country Music Hall of Fame member.
Beginning in the early 1950s, Wagoner had more than 80 charting singles, including more than 25 top 10 hits. Hits including "Misery Loves Company," "I've Enjoyed As Much of This As I Can Stand," "The Cold Hard Facts of Life," "The Carroll County Accident" and "A Satisfied Mind" were considered hard-country classics.
The Porter Wagoner Show ran for 21 years, beginning in 1961, and reached more than 100 TV markets. It was on the show that Wagoner introduced fans to Parton. Their duets yielded many hits, winning a Grammy and three CMA Duo of the Year Awards.
Wagoner was born near West Plains, Mo. Aug. 12, 1927, the son of a farmer. Country music was part of family life. His brother, Glenn Lee, played fiddle and guitar with Wagoner learning the fiddle. His sister, Lorraine, taught him acoustic guitar.
Wagoner left school after eighth grade to help the family because the Wagoners lost their farm.
A meeting with Roy Acuff in his hometown along with inspiration from Bill Monroe led Wagoner to play bluegrass music throughout the U.S. Back home, Wagoner entertained customers at a local market where he worked. The store owner sponsored Wagoner on a 15-minute daily performance on the local radio station, KWPM. He soon gained regional attention.
A Springfield, Mo. station, KWTO, soon asked for Wagoner, and he was on the air there.
By 1952, Wagoner signed with RCA Victor Records, but he did not enjoy earlier success. His first single was Hank Williams' "Settin' the Woods on Fire" in 1952, but neither that nor his next seven singles made much of an impact. RCA dropped Wagoner in 1954.
Wagoner persevered, recording two songs on his own dime. Both - 'Company's Comin" in 1954 and "A Satisfied Mind" - became hits. RCA changed its mind and quickly re-signed Wagoner.
This time it was different. "It wasn't long after that that I found the song "Satisfied Mind," and that's the one that done the job for me."
In 1957, Wagoner joined the Grand Ole Opry and moved to Nashville. He soon formed his backup band, The Wagonmasters.
The hits continued for Wagoner with "Misery Loves Company," a number 1 hit, in 1962, "Green Green Grass of Home" in 1965 and "The Cold Hard Facts of Life" in 1967.
Wagoner also started a syndicated television program, growing from 18 stations to more than 200 by the early 1970s, according to Wagoner.
"I had a special guest each week, someone from the Grand Ole Opry or someone with a hot record that had a career that was breaking out. I'd have them on the show. It was a great thing for me."
Wagoner also helped sign singing partner Norma Jean in the early 1960s. Seven years later, he introduced the young Parton.
The two would eventually record 18 songs that charted between 1967 and 1980, starting with "The Last Thing On My Mind," in 1967 to their only number 1, "Please Don't Stop Loving Me" in 1974 to their last song that charted, "If You Go, I'll Follow You," in 1980.
The two had a falling out at one point when Parton tried to start a solo career in the early 1970s. Parton and Wagoner eventually fought in the courts with Parton's career ballooning, while Wagoner's was on the decline. The two eventually settled with Parton singing at a 50th anniversary Grand Ole Opry party for Wagoner in May.
In recent years, Wagoner tended to record gospel albums. His last disc, "Wagonmaster," was released on the Anti-label in June with Marty Stuart producing. Wagoner opened a shock for rock band White Stripes at Madison Square Garden in July.
Wagoner is survived by three children, Richard, Debra and Denise. Visitation and funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.