Porter Wagoner Biography

Grand Ole Opry star Porter Wagoner.

1927 - 2007

Porter Wagoners' broad smile, flashy costume and memorable songs are the very image of a country music star. Indeed, he is an icon in the music industry. The "Thin Man From West Plains" (Missouri), is among the most recognized names and images in all of country music. His grand showmanship, his rhinestone suits, his loyalty to the Grand Ole Opry, his TV leadership, his championing of Dolly Parton, his unique singing voice, his exquisite recitations, his songwriting, and especially, his record production, have all culminated in the legacy that is Porter Wagoner.

Porter Wayne Wagoner was born August 12, 1927 of Irish-German heritage in the Ozarks of Missouri near the Arkansas border. In 1949, Porter visited Nashville and witnessed Hank Williams singing "Lovesick Blues" at the Grand Ole Opry.

By 1950, he was working in Vaughn's butcher shop on the town square and singing (and reading commercials) on a 15-minute early morning show over local radio KWPM in his hometown. Executives from Springfield, Missouri's KWTO radio station then recruited him for their station in September 1951. In 1952, Porter found himself recording his first RCA release, Williams' "Settin' The Woods On Fire". 1953 brought Porter his first songwriting success with the Carl Smith hit, "Trademark". During this time the Porter Wagoner Trio, with Don Warden (steel guitar) and Herschel "Speedy" Haworth (electric guitar) was formed and began touring. 1954 brought Porter his first top 10 hit with "Company's Comin'". "A Satisfied Mind" came next and went to number one for 4 weeks and stayed on the charts for over 8 months. In 1954, Porter became a part of the "Ozark Jubilee" and on February 23, 1957 he joined the "Grand Ole Opry" where he remains one of its most popular stars.

Pictured l-r: Buck Trent, original member of the Wagonmasters (Porter’s band), Marty Stuart, Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner and Patty Loveless. Photo by Chris Hollo, Hollophotographics. Copyright Grand Ole Opry 2007.

Television has also been a major part of Porter's time in the public eye. He started the syndicated "Porter Wagoner Show" in 1960 and it remained on the air for an amazing 21 years airing in close to two hundred markets and seen by an estimated 3.5 million viewers. The "Porter Wagoner Show" was a key factor in popularizing country and gospel music across the United States. Throughout the 1960's, there were lots of hit recordings and television work. In 1967, after seven magical years together, Pretty Miss Norma Jean left Porter's show to get married. Early September of that year brought a fledging female singer named Dolly Parton as Norma's replacement. In the next few years "Carrol County Accident" became a standout country hit and crossed into the pop charts, earning Porter a Grammy nomination and 1969 CMA "Song Of The Year" honors. Porter and Dolly duets became increasingly popular, earning nominations and awards from the Grammys, CMA, ACM, MCN and a host of other awards shows. In 1965, he helped create another country and pop standard, "Green, Green Grass Of Home". There have been over 500 versions, but Porter's was the first hit. Porter's career was on a definite upswing in 1969, when he won his third Grammy for "Best Gospel Performance" with the Blackwood Brothers.

The 1970's brought more hit records (with Dolly and alone) and more television. In 1979, he hosted "The Godfather Of Soul", James Brown at the Grand Ole Opry.

In the 1980's Porter landed a role in the movie, "Honkytonk Man" with Clint Eastwood.

The 1990's brought the Nashville Network and even more television work and appearances on the Grand Ole Opry for Porter.

With the new millennium under way, Porter received his highest accolade with his induction into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 2002.

GAC host Bill Cody visits with Opry members Porter Wagoner and Marty Stuart during a taping of GAC's Masters Seriesat the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Porter has been awarded four Grammy awards. Three of which were won for his work in gospel music. Gospel music has, in fact, always been at the heart and soul of his legacy. He began recording again after many years and in 2004, Gusto/King Records' owner recognized him as the "King Of Country Gospel". "22 Grand Old Gospel 2004", became one of the best-selling gospel CD's in the Gusto/King/Tee Vee music catalog. Dolly stated "it's one of the best albums I have ever heard, bar none?I'll enjoy this forever". The follow-up collection, "18 Grand Old Gospel 2005", released in January 2005, includes several songs written by Porter himself. Also featured on both collections are duets with Porters current singing partner, Pam Gadd. In 2004 Porter and Pam recorded "Something To Brag About" giving some of country music's most classic songs their own spin. The CD received glowing reviews in 2005, Also that year, Porter recorded a collection of his "20 All Time Greatest Hits" for Gusto/King. He revisited all the classics we know him for. "A Satisfied Mind", "Carroll County Accident", "Skid Row Joe", "Trouble In The Amen Corner", "Company's Comin'", "Green, Green Grass Of Home", "Ole Slew Foot", "The Cold Hard Facts Of Life", "Sunny Side Of The Mountain" and all the recordings that helped to make him a legend.

January 2006 brought the third installment in the highly successful recordings with a country/gospel flavor. "Gospel 2006" and the first single, "The Dream (A True Story)" is getting great reviews, charting positions and airplay from many top Classic and Christian Country radio stations all across America.

Porter is not one to brag, but he is widely acknowledged by new country performers as the epitome of showmanship. Those who are truly trying to learn the business, watch him to see how he puts on a total show, making everyone in the audience feel special. He wouldn't say he's doing anything special, he's just being himself.