Sunday, 9 December, 2007 11:36 PM
CMA: Porter Wagoner 1927-2007
BY CHRIS HOLLO / HOLLOPHOTOGRAPHICS, INC.
Wagoner backstage at the Grand Ole Opry
2007 CMA Close Up News Service
When Porter Wagoner,
known as "The Thin Man from West Plains" because of his
lanky frame, succumbed to lung cancer, at 8:25 PM/CST on Oct. 28
in Nashville, a piece of Country Music history slipped into its
rhinestone-studded jacket, stowed its guitar and headed toward the
Wagoner, who had survived
an abdominal aneurysm in 2006, made his exit quickly, being hospitalized
on Oct. 15 and released to hospice care on Oct. 26. But before then,
he had flourished for half a century as a member of the Grand Ole
Opry, pioneered the fusion of Country Music and television as host
for 21 years of "The Porter Wagoner Show," won three CMA
Awards and four Grammy Awards, helped Dolly Parton and Mel Tillis
launch their careers, and then joined them in 2002 as a member of
the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In addition to these
accomplishments was the impact Wagoner made on countless fans who
embraced him as one of their favorite entertainers. His homespun
humor and accessible vocal style captivated radio listeners for
generations. The gaudy outfits, upswept hair and room-lighting smile
were indispensible elements in his live shows - but for those who
could only listen from hundreds or thousands of miles away, the
sound and feeling of the man, as broadcast from Nashville, were
enough to make him seem like a friend.
"This is a terrible
loss for the music industry on many different levels," said
CMA CEO Tammy Genovese. "Musically, the 'Wagonmaster' contributed
a great deal to the format with his voice, his humor and his undeniable
charm. He was a consummate showman, wrapped like a bright and precious
gift to the nation in his trademark rhinestone-studded suits. He
is an unforgettable figure in Country Music history. He will be
missed. Our prayers go out to his children Debra, Denise and Richard
and their families."
Porter Wayne Wagoner
was born on Aug. 12, 1927, in the Ozark Mountain region of southwestern
Missouri. Raised in West Plains, educated in a one-room schoolhouse,
he worked as a young man by day in a butcher shop and as a Country
performer at night. His style grew from its bluegrass roots into
a synthesis of Roy Acuff, Hank Williams and other contemporaries,
blended with Wagoner's own evolving sound. In 1951, he became a
regular on the KWTO program, out of Springfield, Mo., that would
become "The Ozark Jubilee." A year later he made his recording
debut for RCA Victor, and the following year Carl Smith turned Wagoner's
"Trademark" into a hit.
"A Satisfied Mind"
hit No. 1 in 1955 and conveyed Wagoner to Nashville and membership
in the Grand Ole Opry two years later. In 1960, he launched "The
Porter Wagoner Show." Its mix of traditional Country Music,
comedy sketches, and guest shots by established and upcoming stars
helped it earn syndication to more than 100 television stations
and expanded its audience to more than 3 million by the early '70s.
It also introduced the world to Parton, Wagoner's protégée
and duo partner. Through their seven-year association, they won
three CMA Vocal Duo of the Year Awards, earned a Grammy and cut
14 songs that wound up in the Top 10, including "Just Someone
I Used to Know," "Making Plans" and the chart-topping
"Please Don't Stop Loving Me."
In his solo work, Wagoner
reflected extraordinary range. His songs, whether self-penned or
selected to reflect the complexity of his artistry, combined elements
that would seem incompatible in the hands of a lesser artist. Yet
Wagoner displayed consistent insight as an interpreter, whether
delivering gospel songs, playfully humorous material, stoic recitations
or descents toward the depths of a tortured soul. From "Company's
Comin'" (1954) and "Eat, Drink and Be Merry (Tomorrow
You'll Cry)" (1955) through the stark, fiddle-haunted introduction
to "Albert Erving" from his last album, Wagonmaster (2007)
produced by Marty Stuart and released on ANTI-Records, from his
gigs with the Blue Ridge Boys in his early 20s to his appearance
in July as the opening act for The White Stripes at a sold-out show
at New York's Madison Square Garden, his legacy is unique and secure.
"I may not be the
world's greatest singer," Wagoner said in his 2007 interview
with CMA Close Up. "But I know how to sing Country Music. I
know what separates Country from other kinds of music. I've learned
that it's important, if you're a singer or an entertainer, to know
what you're doing. You need to study this business as if you were
going to be a doctor, a lawyer or a man that makes big decisions.
You never do find out all there is to know in your lifetime. But
you learn from that process every day - and you don't forget what
is Detroit's exclusive media outlet for this syndicated weekly column!