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Porter Wagoner Biography

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album cover Carroll County Accident

Porter Wagoner - 'Carroll County Accident' (1969)

Image courtesy of RCA Records

Overview:

Porter Wagoner mixed dark and comic themes in songs like "Green, Green Grass of Home" and "Carroll County Accident." His long partnership with Dolly Parton buoyed her early career; their separation helped inspired Parton's song "I Will Always Love You."

Fun Facts:

  • Wagoner worked as a butcher before gaining fame as a musician
  • He ended his schooling in seventh grade.
  • Frequently, Wagoner's songs have shocking endings, among them "Carroll County Accident" and "The Cold Hard Facts of Life."
  • His 1966 album Confessions of a Broken Man won a Grammy for its cover art. Throughout his career, Wagoner was known for having some of the best album covers in country music.

Early Years:

Porter Wagoner was born on August 12, 1927, in West Plains, Missouri. He got his start with the group The Blue Ridge Boys and appeared on Springfield radio.

Although he inked a deal with RCA Victor early in his career, Wagoner had few successes until 1953 when Carl Smith turned his song "Trademark" into a hit.

By 1957, Wagoner had joined the Grand Ole Opry.

TV Show and Dolly Parton:

A good share of Wagoner's popularity is due to his TV show The Porter Wagoner Show; it aired from 1960 to 1981. On it, Wagoner became recognizable for his Day-Glo Nudie suits and gravity-defying pompadour.

In the show's early years, Wagoner was joined on the broadcast with singer Norma Jean. When Jean left the program, she was replaced by a relative unknown named Dolly Parton. The pair sung duets together and Wagoner became a mentor to the young singer; they eventually recorded a pair of duet albums.

Their partnership ended in 1974 when Dolly left the show to go solo; Parton memorialized her relationship with Porter on the song "I Will Always Love You."

Key Porter Wagoner Songs:

  • "A Satisfied Mind"
  • "Carroll County Accident"
  • "Green, Green Grass of Home"
  • "The Cold Hard Facts of Life"

Later Years and Death:

Porter Wagoner had a career resurgence in the 2000s, largely due to the interest of younger fans and his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002.

This honor was followed by the 2006 release of The Rubber Room: The Haunting Poetic Songs of Porter Wagoner, 1966-1977. The compilation highlighted Wagoner's more eccentric and darker material. Wagoner released the back-to-roots album Wagonmaster the next year and opened for the White Stripes at Madison Square Garden.

On October 28, 2007, in Nashville, Wagoner died from lung cancer. He was 80 years old.

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