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Artist Details

Porter Wagoner
Date Born/Group Began: August 12, 1927 (I B Emerson) 
Date Died/Group Ended: October 28, 2007 (I B Emerson) 
Also Known As:
Over a period of nearly 40 years, Wagoner placed 81 songs on the country-music chart, 19 of those duets with Dolly Parton, who joined his show in 1967 as a replacement for his first female co-star, Norma Jean. Wagoner and Parton were named country group and country duo of the year in 1970 and 1971 by the Country Music Assn.

Wagoner's music often told dark tales of desperate people in stark terms that placed him in the gothic tradition of country music. This was best exemplified in his 1971 recording "The Rubber Room," a song about a man wrestling with the dark side of his psyche. "The Cold Hard Facts of Life," a 1967 hit, recounted the tale of a husband returning home early from a business trip to find his wife in the arms of another man. Without directly describing the outcome, the song ends with the husband sitting in his cell on death row, asking himself, "Who taught who the cold hard facts of life?"
Porter Wagoner was born Aug. 12, 1927, in West Plains, Mo. He grew up helping out on the family farm, but when he wasn't busy with farm chores he would spend hours standing on the trunk of a felled oak tree pretending he was host of the Grand Ole Opry, which he listened to religiously on the radio.

Once a neighboring farmer stumbled on the young man mimicking his act and asked what he was doing. When Wagoner told him of his dream to be an Opry star one day, the farmer told him, "You're as close to the Grand Ole Opry as you'll ever get. You'll be looking these mules in the rear end when you're 65."

Recalling that incident backstage at the Opry in 2007, Wagoner, who was surrounded in his kingly dressing room by photos showing him with hundreds of celebrity well-wishers who had joined him on the show over the years, just smiled and said with a gentle laugh, "I wish I could see him now."

He got his first guitar from his older brother, Glenn, whose death before age 20 from a heart ailment hit Wagoner hard. He became determined to carry on his brother's love for music. Working at a department store in West Plains, Wagoner was hired by the owner to sing on a radio show he sponsored.

His initial attempts at a recording career were less than stellar, as Wagoner simply attempted to copy the sound of his idol, Hank Williams. But he quickly realized that his only chance at a meaningful life in music was to be himself.

He wrote and recorded "A Satisfied Mind," a song that discounts the rewards of the material world in favor of the facets of life that lead to peace of mind. It took him to the top of the country chart in 1955 for the first time and remained his biggest hit.

He sang with an unadorned, everyman voice, not the booming bass-baritone of a Johnny Cash, the jazz-inflected acrobatics of Willie Nelson or the bluegrass-steeped purity of a Vince Gill.

"I don't try to show off a so-called beautiful voice, because I don't feel my voice is beautiful," Wagoner once said. "I believe there is a different kind of beauty, the beauty of being honest, of being yourself, of singing like you feel it.",1,1490342.story?coll=la-editions-inland-news&ctrack=2&cset=true
(I B Emerson)
  • He died from lung cancer. (I B Emerson)
  • He joined the "Grand Ole Opry" in 1957. (I B Emerson)
  • Porter had a syndicated TV show for 21 years, starting in 1960. (I B Emerson)
  • He had significant influence on Dolly Parton's career. (I B Emerson)
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