Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

In Memoriam – Porter Wagoner

[editor’s note – we’re still here, believe it or not, despite a relatively protracted absence this past week. Another of us, unfortunately, is not]

Country Music Hall of Famer Porter Wagoner, who battled drugs, alcohol and depression throughout his spectacularly successful sixty-plus year career as a country crooner, tv personality and Grand Old Opry emcee died of lung cancer this past October 28. He was 80.

Porter Wagoner – that was his real name – grew up in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri during the Depression. He first became involved with country radio in the late 1940s, playing guitar and singing commercials. He signed his first recording contract in 1953, which began a succession of hits which lasted through the 1970s. Wagoner was best known for his series of duets with Dolly Parton, culminating with Please Don’t Stop Loving Me in 1974. Rumors of an affair with Parton were ubiquitous – Wagoner’s second marriage ended abruptly after Parton began appearing on his popular syndicated tv show the Porter Wagoner Hour – and Wagoner did nothing to deny them. The relationship between Parton and Wagoner soured in the late 1970s as the two went to court over business deals.

Wagoner was the original rhinestone cowboy. He owned dozens of custom-made rhinestone coats costing thousands of dollars each. His television show, at its peak in the 1960s, reached an audience of millions. However, his career was marked with several stretches of inactivity as he fought with depression and problems with alcohol and drugs. While he was more accomplished a songwriter than conventional wisdom dictates, his greatest achievements remain his role as an interpreter of other peoples’ material, and as a tirelessly charismatic goodwill ambassador for country music.

November 1, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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