Star Stats: Porter Wagoner

Star Stats: Porter Wagoner

Originally published in the March 23, 1999 issue of Country Weekly magazine.

Full name: Porter Wayne Wagoner

Birth: Aug. 12, 1927

Death: Oct. 28, 2007 [updated Dec. 3, 2007]

Birthplace: South Fork township of Missouri, just outside of Lanton

Raised: West Plains, Mo.

Hair: silver/gray, curly

Eyes: blue

Parents: father Charley; mother Bertha

Siblings: sisters Lorraine and Lola, brothers Oscar and Glenn Lee

Marriages: brief marriage in 1944 to the former Velma Johnson (Porter was 16); second wife was the former Ruth Olive Williams, married 1946-1986

Children: son Richard, daughters Denise and Debra

Trademark: has become well-known for his elaborately decorated, colorful rhinestone Nudie suits and custom boots, many decorated with wagon wheels; some of the suits are valued at more than $10,000

Early performances: young Porter would get up on a stump outside the old family farm house and put on “shows” for his sisters; he would pretend he was on the Grand Ole Opry, introducing Roy Acuff; then he’d turn and pretend to be Roy Acuff and sing an Acuff tune

First public apearance: age 10; his older sister Lorraine blackmailed him into performing by threatening to tell their mother Porter was smoking cigarettes

Personal hero: his older brother Glenn Lee, who died in 1942 at the age of 18; Glenn Lee was both his musical and personal mentor

First guitar: his mother ordered him an $8 National guitar from Montgomery Ward, and Porter paid for it with money earned from trapping rabbits; he still has the guitar

Early break: Porter was working as a grocery clerk in a meat department when his boss heard him playing his guitar on the job; the boss liked it so much he decided to sponsor a 15-minute radio show, three days a week, starring Porter

National exposure: after moving to radio station KWTO in Springfield, Mo., he became part of the televised Ozark Jubilee; signed a recording contract with RCA in 1953

Career break: 1960; after a few successful singles in the ’50s, the Chattanooga Medicine Co. chose him to host a 30-minute syndicated TV show; he stayed with the show for 20 years and discovered the talents of Norma Jean and Dolly Parton, his two most famous “girl singers”; it was the longest-running country music show on television

Grand Ole Opry: became a member in 1957; he’s now the host

Spare time: fishing; Porter has his boat equipped with black lights to help him fish better at night — he designed the Nighthawk fishing boat for a Tennessee-based company; he calls it “the first of its kind in the world”

Grammys: All with The Blackwood Brothers — Best Sacred Recording (Musical) (1966); Best Gospel Performance (1967 and 1969)

CMA awards: Vocal Group of the Year (1968, with Dolly Parton); Vocal Duo of the Year (1970-1971, with Dolly Parton)

Billboard Top 5 singles: “A Satisfied Mind” (No. 1, 1955); “Eat, Drink and Be Merry (Tomorrow You’ll Cry)” (No. 3, 1955); “Misery Loves Company” (No. 1, 1962); “Sorrow on the Rocks” (No. 5, 1964); “Green, Green Grass of Home” (No. 4, 1965); “Skid Row Joe” (No. 3, 1965); “The Cold Hard Facts of Life” (No. 2, 1967); “We’ll Get Ahead Someday” (No. 5, 1968); “The Carroll County Accident” (No. 2, 1968); “Big Wind” (No. 3, 1969); “Just Someone I Used To Know” (No. 5, 1969, with Dolly Parton); “If Teardrops Were Pennies” (No. 3, 1973, with Dolly Parton); “Please Don’t Stop Loving Me” (No. 1, 1974, with Dolly Parton); “Say Forever You’ll Be Mine” (No. 5, 1975); “Making Plans” (No. 2, 1980, with Dolly Parton)

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First Nudie suit: Nudie approached Porter after a concert in Greenville, Mo., proposing to brighten up Porter’s show with some flashier clothes. Porter was only making $50 a night and the suit cost $350, so Nudie made the custom-tailored suit for free; Porter says, “It was the darndest-looking thing I’d ever seen. It was a peach-colored suit with rhinestones, wagon wheels, cactus — all kinds of different embroidery. It was breathtaking!”

photo by Larry Hill

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