Country Music Visionary Porter Wagoner Passes On

Brody Vercher | October 28th, 2007

Porter WagonerIt’s a somber day for country music and its fans.

Mr. Wagoner’s death was announced tonight by a publicist for the Grand Ole Opry. Mr. Wagoner — who was honored on May 19 for his 50 years as an Opry member- died at 8:25 p.m. at Alive Hospice in Nashville.

“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,” says Pete Fisher, vice-president and general manager of The Grand Ole Opry.

Visit the Tennessean for a brief glimpse at the accomplished life and career of “The Thin Man From West Plains.”

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  1. CF
    October 29, 2007 at 12:18 am

    I just found out about the news awhile ago and I feel shocked but not surprised…it’s just saddening. He was a true country music legend and he accomplished a lot in his life. RIP Wagonmaster.

  2. Gregory Humphrey
    October 29, 2007 at 1:32 am

    The style, flash, and smile that Porter brought with him to the stage was reflected back to him with warm applause and appreciation night after night on the Opry stage, and other venues around the nation. When he appeared in Wisconsin about 15 years ago he bounded on the stage wearing one of his famous Nudie suits that was his trademark. After a long performance he lingered and met the fans. One by one they shared a memory with him and took home an autograph and snapshot. I still recall that night how he seemed utterly content to stay as long as his fans kept talking. I left with an old album cover signed and a deeper appreciation for the man behind the music.

    He never forgot how hard it was to make it in the business back in the early days of his career. And because of that he never took his fans for granted.

  3. CF
    October 29, 2007 at 4:55 am

    Alright, I spent several hours doing this, but I really needed to before I went to sleep. Here’s my tribute to Porter (Recommendation #16):
    http://www.icfmusic.blogspot.com/

  4. Paul W Dennis
    October 29, 2007 at 5:09 am

    I think it would be difficult for younger listeners to imagine the impact Porter Wagoner had on country music.

    The televised Porter Wagoner Show was like having friends over for a spell to chat and sing. You definitely felt like you knew Porter, Pretty Miss Norma Jean (and later Dolly Parton) Spec Rhodes and the crew.

    While never quite a top tier recording artist, Porter’s sense of the unusual enabled him to sing songs that even the folks such as Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard wouldn’t touch. The cover art on Porter’s LP’s remain among the most remarkable ever.

    And of course, those great duets with Dolly – easily the greatest male-female duets in the history of the genre, maybe the best harmonizers in any genre of music

    I finally got to meet Porter last year when Bobby Bare performed at the Florida Subshine Opry in Eustis and brought his old fishing buddy with him (they were both fishing at Lake Panosoffkee)

    RIP

  5. mikeky
    October 29, 2007 at 10:08 am

    everybody, go out and buy a porter wagoner record. he didn’t record bad music. just pick a cd. they’re all good. especially ‘wagonmaster’.

  6. Brady Vercher
    October 29, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    Although this isn’t something you can ever be prepared for, at least he was able to go out on a wave (Wagonmaster, 50 years with the Opry).

    Does anyone think that the CMA’s will have “time” to honor Wagoner in the upcoming ceremony?

  7. Mike Whitaker
    October 30, 2007 at 9:32 am

    Today is a sad day in the world of country music, and in the hearts of many fans. Another legend passed away on Sunday night, Mr. Porter Wagoner. Country will never be the same.

    As countless tributes and memorials will be forthcoming over the next week, and as many already have, I’m going to take a different path with mine. I loved the music Porter gave us, and I can’t count the smiles he out on my face sitting in the audience at the Opry. His legacy stands for itself, and will forever. I’m going to take this a different route, one that I think he’d approve of, though he’d never have said this himself.

    I’m tired. I’m embarrassed. And I’m ashamed. We should all be. Again, we got too busy, too driven by success, and we forgot. We forgot about Porter, the same way we forgot about Johnny, the same way we forgot about Buck. Porter Wagoner was an institution in country music. Recently, his 50 years as a cast member of the Grand Ole Opry was celebrated. He released his final album, Wagonmaster, and what I believe will be his enduring single, Comitted to Parkview. And we hardly noticed. If CMT and country radio is your connection to country music, then you probably didn’t notice at all. Save the sites that have vision and roots, the coverage was minimal. Same for Buck and Johnny. Same for Waylon. Tammy. I could go on and on. We concentrate on the here and now so much, that we forget we have a past. A past filled with icons, without whom we would not be where we are today.

    Then, after we’ve barely even spoken their name in years, one of these icons of a day gone by passes on to the Big Stage in the Sky. And you’d think it had all been different. We cry, we have television specials, we have tributes, and make a production of it all. We even go to the awards shows, and hold them in memorial for all to see. When was the last time we even thought of them before that moment. No doubt they will honor Porter at this years CMA’s. When was the last time you saw or even heard mention of him on a CMA show as a relevant artist? Years and years. They’ve been forgotten, til now.

    Sure, we bring out one or two of the Old School each year, and induct them into the Hall of Fame. We do it in such a manner as to say, “Good job, old fella. You’re done. Here’s your spot in the Circle, and we love you. Now go back to retirement and we’ll move on. We’ve got a few million more albums to sell.”

    Remember all the way back to 1980, when Johnny Cash was inducted into the Hall? He said, in his acceptance speech, after an humble thanks, that he wasn’t done. He said watch out, I’m just gettin’ started. But the country music establishment saw to otherwise. He was done in commercial country. Forgotten for the better part of two decades. Only after the American Recordings projects got too big to ignore, and he passed, did the establishment change its tune. The honors and accolades then fell from the rafters, from the very people who turned him to the streets. And where was the apology, where was the change of how we do business to assure we never make the same mistake again? Curiously absent.

    This madness has to stop. I hated to write such an article while mourning the death of Porter. I’d like to just sit and listen to his great catalog and have a good cry. But I’ve done that too many times before. We have to stop ourselves right now, while the pain is fresh, the void too big to overlook, and make some changes. There’s still a few of the Old Dogs left. The Hag, Willie, Ray Price, Billy Joe Shaver, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Jerry Lee, Charlie Pride, Little Jimmy, Bill Anderson – just to name a few. Will we do the same to them? God, I hope not.

    Here’s my challenge to you. Do something to make a difference. Anything. Just don’t allow this to happen again. What am I suggesting? Many things. First, educate yourself. Take the time to do your homework. Never again call yourself a country fan if you think it all started with Garth. For you, it may well have. But that’s just not good enough. Do your homework. Trace it all back to its roots. And enjoy the ride, as I know you will. Then take some sort of action. Go to the Hall the next time your in Music City, and spend the day. See it for yourself. Go to the Opry. Buy the old albums, and then buy the new ones that the old artists put out. You just may find yourself hooked. Call your radio station. Tell ‘em to ease off the pop they keep playing and put something real on. When the CMT awards come around, to hell with what they want you to vote for, write one in, and make a statement. Give the old hands a fair shake. They know how it’s supposed to be done, and they still do it oh, so well.

    Now, see, just like Porter, they aren’t gonna ask you for this. They have too much dignity to do that. And they shouldn’t have to. That’s what I’m here for. A wake up call, and a call to arms, all in one. You want to honor Porter, and his memory? The take a stand. Refuse, along with me, to allow this to ever happen again. No greater compliment could be paid. And, along the way, stop and ask yourself, as you write a tribute of your own, to look at yourself. When was the last time you popped a Porter album in and gave it a listen? If you don’t wanna answer that question, you’re a part of the problem. Be a part of the solution.

    I’ll close with the chorus of a Dale Watson song, Legends (What If), from his Live in London cd. I believe that Dale, as he so often does, says it best

  8. Brody Vercher
    October 30, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    Great post/comment, Mike. As soon as I get paid again I’m shelling out the $75 it costs to see Guy Clark in a week and half.

  9. Gregory Humphrey
    October 30, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    Awesome post Mike.

    I would be happy if you posted it as a comment on my Portor Wagoner post.

    I have written in the same mood as you about the Opry and think my readers should read your words.

    Link to the post is here.

    http://dekerivers.wordpress.com/2007/10/29/porter-wagoner-made-it-to-fame-with-a-satisfied-mind/

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