He was a country music singer-songwriter and
television personality born Porter Wayne Wagoner on a farm in Lanton in the
Ozark Mountains and raised in West Plains, Missouri. He loved listening to country music
so he taught himself the guitar so he could sing along and play at the same
He married in 1943, but it lasted only a brief time,
and then re-married in 1946 and worked at a butcher shop. He made his first trip to the Grand
Ole Opry was in 1949, where he saw his idol Hank Williams. By 1950 he had had formed his own
band called The Blue Ridge Boys and landed a spot at the town’s radio
station where he sang on KWPM’s early morning show. It wasn’t long before the officials
at KWTO in Springfield, Missouri snapped him up in 1951.
The following year he was signed up to record for RCA,
with his debut release being a cover of Hank Williams’ “Settin’ the Woods
on Fire” which saw little interest. Also writing songs by this point, Carl Smith recorded his
“Trademark” in 1953 and the ensuing No.2 hit gave him his first taste of
He got together the musicians Hershcel “Speedy”
Haworth and Don Warden and formed The Porter Wagoner Trio who he embarked
on a tour with. He continued
to work for RCA and in 1954 he realised his own chart success as a singer
when his “Company’s Comin’” entered the Top 10. Shortly after this he released “A Satisfied Mind” which
brought him the accolade of reaching the No. 1 spot and remaining there for
the next 4 weeks. It was 8
months before it finally left the charts, by which time he had become a
regular on the Ozark Jubilee television show.
He decided to leave Missouri and move his family to
Nashville and continuing with his success, he released many further singles
and formed his backing band The Wagonmasters. In 1957 he became part of the Grand Ole Opry where he
made regular appearances throughout his long career. In fact, he was such a mainstay
that he became known as “Mr. Grand Ole Opry” and acted as an ambassador for
them in later years.
When the 1960s arrived he launched his syndicated Porter
Wagoner Show on the television, which proved so popular that it spent
the next 21 years on air.
Pretty Miss Norma Jean accompanied him on the show from 1960 to 1967
and after she left he replaced her with the virtually unknown young singer
called Dolly Parton. She was a
hit with the audience and over the years their duets gained immense
popularity and won them 14 Top 10 hits and many awards. Dolly’s self-penned hit “I Will
Always Love You” was written for him during a difficult time for them when
she wanted to concentrate on her solo career. They parted company with bad
feelings, but these were ironed out over time.
In 1966, ‘67 and ‘69 he gained three Grammy awards for
his performances with the Blackwood Brothers and the 1970s were no less
kind to him with many further awards and hits with Dolly and as a solo
singer. At the end of the
decade he played host to James Brown for his 1979 appearance at the Grand
The 1980s were no less busy, when he produced an
R&B album for Joe Simon and made an appearance in Clint Eastwood’s
movie “Honkytonk Man” and toured with the female group The Right
Combination. During the 1990s
he appeared on TV’s Nashville Network” and made further performances at the
Grand Ole Opry.
The new millennium was no less busy when he became a
2002 inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame and went back into the
recording studio with Pam Gadd who was his latest singing partner. She appeared on several duets with
him on his newly released the albums 22 Grand Old Gospel 2004 and 18
Grand Old Gospel 2005. He
and Pam then released Something to Brag About and he recorded his 20
All Time Greatest Hits.
2006 saw him recording Gospel 2006 and the single “The Dream
(A True Story)” saw him entering the charts. His final album, Wagonmaster, was released in
June 2007 followed by a promotional tour.
In October 2007 he was struck down by lung cancer
and on the 28th of that month he passed away. He was 80 years old. Porter Wagoner Boulevard was named
in West Plains, Missouri, in his honour and Dolly Parton performed a
His success as an immensely popular singer-songwriter was astronomical
with a total of 81 chart hits over the course of his career. These included “Carroll County
Accident”, “Cold Hard Facts of Life”, “Green, Green Grass of Home” which
later became a UK No. 1 for Tom Jones. “Ole Slew Foot”,“Skid Row Joe”,
“Sunny Side of the Mountain” and “Trouble in the Amen Corner”.