Porter Wagoner Tribute – Nashville 10/31

A few months before the Americana Music Conference I had received an email baring a Hatch Show Print image of a young Porter Wagoner beaming and smiling and holding his guitar. he seemed to be thinking “I am the man, and kiss my ass.” This was an invitation to a tribute to the country music legend, Hall Of Fame member and and Opry fixture.

The tribute became a eulogy after Wagoner succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 80 on Sunday, October 28th.

Wagoner was riding high on the release of his Anti records album “Wagonmaster.” The album was produced, played on and shepherded by the patron saint of country music’s legacy Marty Stuart.

I made my way downtown from the Convention Center conference check in to the Tennessee State Museum where the amidst the current exhibit of Marty Stuart’s Sparkle & Twang a tribute was to be held. There was already a line forming, 20 or 25 of the faithful, and I sauntered up to the end of the line. There I met fiddler extraordinaire Barbara Lamb and her friend from Seattle (who’s name escapes me) munching on the remnants of a Subway sandwich. Lamb proved to be charming company and took time to point out the Nashville who’s who growing crowd.

With the price of admission (a $5 donation for the Museum really) came a ticket for a free beverage. As I was waining in line for my free Bub longneck I was fortunate to recognize Austin, Texas chanteuse Sunny Sweeney ahead of me. I told Sunny who I was and told her that I run this blog and she was sweet enough to state that she had seen my site. What a gal!

Then Rodney Crowell came walking around the side of the bar and I was barely able to mutter a hello and grab a handshake. But I did my best.

By the time I made my way back to my chair I noticed that the room was filled with hundreds of folks most of which where standing around the stage and seating area. Then there was a brief clamor and I saw Attorney General Janet Reno. Reno had been involved in the “Song of America” project and was in town to appear on a panel of the same name. The cool factor of the room just amped way up for me.

The show started with Jim Lauderdale doing what he does naturally, MCing the event. Singing “Slewfoot,” telling corny jokes (“I once told a the Grand Old Opry crowd, “I like classical music, like Wagner, Porter Wagoner.” – HAW!) and wearing a spangled Nudie suit Porter would be proud of, Jim mentioned that Marty Stuart was stuck out of town and not able to attend the event honoring his friend and colleague. It might have been true, but I just figured Marty was naturally too tore up to appear.

Wearing a Nudie inspired baseball cap Wagoner’s daughter, Denise, was in at a table up front with some other family members. She briefly spoke at the event and was clearly pleased with the turnout and the opportunity to pay respect to her father and receive the Americana Music Association “Americana Original Award” given to Porter posthumously.

Also in the audience was Wagoner’s pre-Dolly duet partner, a youthful appearing Norma Jean, who waived and smiled sweetly when announced.

Rodney Crowell, Jim Lauderdale, the Hacienda Brothers’ Chris Gaffney, Buddy Miller and Emmylou Harris (who felt moved to attend the event though she was not initially on the bill) all appeared to cover Porter songs and pay respect. Harris and Crowell sang “If Teardrops Were Pennies” as a duet as Porter and Dolly had done many years before. And Harris sweetly sang “Someone I Used To Know” with Miller on backing vocals. “We’ve been so inspired by him for so long,” said Emmylou, who sang two more Porter songs with Buddy before inviting Jim up for a lovely version of “Satisfied Mind.”

Mike Farris (late of the Screaming Cheetah Wheelies) hushed the crowd with a soulfully rousing version of “Green Green Grass Of Home.”

I had a chanced to see Wagoner and Stuart perform many of the songs on “Wagonmaster” in an intimate sold out show at Joe’s Pub on the East side last March and then briefly meet him backstage. I was then able to see him open for the White Stripes at Madison Square Garden a few days before my birthday last July. I attended specifilally to see Poter since I really can’t understand what the big deal is with the White Stripes, though I do respect Jack White for hand-picking Porter to open for them

I consider myself very fortunate to have had these events take place in my life and will treasure those memories.

In his brief but spectacular comeback period Porter reminded us all how elegant and eloquent country music can be.



Porter Wagoner Photo Near Stage



Rodney  Crowell



Buddy Miller, Emmylou Harris and Jim Lauderdale


Wagoner’s daughter, Denise and  Jim Lauderdale

Me and Porter

Wagonmaster’s Rolling – Porter Wagoner 1927-1007

Grand Ole Opry member and country music legend Porter Wagoner has died at the age of 80. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer and listed in serious condition and was released from a Nashville-area hospital to a hospice to be with his family.

In May, he celebrated his 50th anniversary as an Opry member during a special segment of the show hosted by Marty Stuart and featuring guest appearances by Patty Loveless and Wagoner’s longtime duet partner, Dolly Parton. Wagoner was inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002.

I was lucky enough to recently see Mr. Wagoner perform in support of his excellent new release “Wagonmaster” which was released earlier this year. I briefly met the man after one of the shows and he seemed genuinely touched and overwhelmed that people still wanted to see him perform after all these years. I do belive he left us doing what he was born to do. What he did best.


Country legend Porter Wagoner Hospitalized with Lung Cancer

Porter Wagoner was admitted to a Nashville-area hospital last Monday and diagnosed with lung cancer. On Tuesday, his family released a statement that he was hospitalized and under observation. On Thursday, the family released another statement that he was in serious condition and asked friends and fans to pray for him.

Here’s hoping a speedy recovery to the Wagonmaster. I hope you’re up and back in your boots soon, sir.

Porter Wagoner – Green, Green Grass of Home


Porter Wagner’s Comeback in Full Swing

The Wall Street Journal and Associated Press have some nice articles on Porter Wagoner. When I saw Wagoner a few months ago at Joe’s Pub, and and a few weeks ago opening for the White Stripes and Grinderman at Madison Square Garden (both backed by Mart Stuart) he seemed at the top of his game and has gone on to do other live dates and even a stop on the David Letterman show.

All the while “The Thin Man from West Plains” seems deeply appreciative for the response this comeback has given him. Blessed as he has said.

If you get a chance, go see him. If you can’t go out today and buy his newly released “Wagonmaster” (Anti Records) and remind yourself what country music can sound like it’s performed by a legend that helped invent it.

An excerpt from the AP: “I stopped making records because I didn’t like the way they were wanting me to record,” he sighs. “When RCA dropped me from the label, I didn’t really care about making records for another label…”

That was 1981, after he had been with RCA almost 30 years. Except for the Grand Ole Opry and work on the now defunct Nashville Network, his career dried up like an old corn stalk.

His comeback began in 2004 with a series of gospel records. Soon, he and Marty Stuart, a fellow Opry member, were plotting an album that would recreate the sound and feel of Wagoner’s vintage recordings.

 Porter Wagoner on David Letterman – Albert Erving


New Music Horizons

It’s no secret that the music industry and undergoing a transmutation of seismic proportions. Illegal downloading, labels suing fans, online radio…this is not your daddy’s Peaches Record store.

The always excellent Chet Flippo over at CMT.com takes a look at the industry through the actions of the purple provocateur Prince and his recent giveaway of his latest CD, Planet Earth, that came bundled free with UK Sunday newspaper The Mail.

Prince’s bread and butter this far into his career is concert tickets, and instead of wasting time, effort and money trying to woo listeners to his new work he uses the music as a means to a promotional end, Prince gives away his latest CD, his Label, , Sony BMG, throws a hissy and refuses to distribute the CD in the UK, the press covers both events and Prince pockets a cool $500,000 from The Mail.

Technology has changed the rules of distribution and consumer behavior and the best the labels could do was to sue the fans and alienate them further. Brilliant! It took a technology company to do what the labels couldn’t stop squabbling long enough to do, make significant cash. It took Steve Jobs to kick their ass, bring them together and show them the future all while taking his cut and selling jillions of iPods.

The Opry entertained everyone within their frequency range on the radio, the Beatles brought their media of the time to bear in getting their music, and their personalities, out by doing Hard Days Night. and Porter Wagoner was using T.V. to get his music, and his Nudie suits, on screens all across America. Past artists looked for new opportunities and they, or their managers, capitalized on them.

Chet’s colleague Patrick Goldstein saw the future and became a casualty when he dared use old media (the newspaper) to advocate for new media business models in conjunction with musical artists willing to offer their music that would then share in advertising revenue.

Artists have to be paid for their work. I do believe that. But I also believe that the rules have changed and income streams and earning potential come from different and untaped places. The field is wide open for those artists willing to look at their world in innovative ways.

MTV Urge Interviews Porter Wagoner

Country music’s legend, Porter Wagoner, sits down with MTV Urge for an interview and discusses his start as well as serious health problems he had to overcome to record his new album, Wagonmaster.

You can find the interview here. You’ll need to download the Urge software first, but it”s worth it.

An excerpt: URGE: Your first big break came on Red Foley’s “Ozark Jubilee” show, the first nationally televised country music program. How did you develop your trademark flashy, Nudie-suit image there?

Porter Wagoner: Nudie [Cohn] came to the Ozark Jubilee one day, and I didn’t know who he was. It was in the real early ’50s. He said he made suits for cowboys and people in the movies. And he had a new idea for suits that included rhinestones and sequins … people hadn’t seen anything like that. My answer was, “It’ll probably cost so much I can’t afford it,” because I was barely getting by then. He said, “If this don’t work, they won’t cost you anything. If it does, then I’ll make some money off of making clothes for you throughout your career.” About three or four weeks later I got a big package that had a suit of clothes in it, and a shirt to match it and a pair of boots. It was a peach-colored suit, and it had a big covered wagon across the back of it. It was just unbelievably beautiful. It was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen. That weekend I wore it onstage, and boy, people just went “wow.” That was the first one he’d made for anybody. He had made a lot of different clothes for cowboys like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, but they didn’t have the sparkle or the glitz.

URGE: You had a life-threatening illness shortly before recording Wagonmaster. How did you bounce back?

Wagoner: I had surgery this past year, July the 14th. I had an aneurysm I had to have taken care of. It got into my kidney. We was talkin’ about doin’ an album at that time, and of course that stopped everything. I started healin’ up, but it took me a long time to get my strength back. Marty [Stuart, album producer] talked to me in the hospital several times [saying], “Let’s get together with a couple of guitars and we’ll sit down and pick some together, and I’d like it if you sang some for me, too.” That really gave me a lot of encouragement, knowing that he was still interested. On the first day, I think we worked 30 to 45 minutes, maybe. He said, “Let’s don’t do too much the first few times here.” And that’s the way we did it. I got to singing and pretty much got my voice back. I was so thrilled to be able to sing again that it really just gave me new inspiration. I was just very fortunate to have somebody like him. Marty loves me like a brother. I had no idea how brilliant he was in the studio. I produced a lot of records, and produced Dolly’s records all the time when she was with me, but he knew new things that I didn’t know. He made a believer out of me. If you could imagine how proud I am of the project. I feel like it’s a touch of brilliance, I really do.

Porter Wagoner – Committed To Parkview

Porter Wagoner Opens for White Stripes at the Garden

From Country Standard Time – Wednesday, June 6, 2007 – Fresh off his just released brand new CD, “Wagonmaster,” Porter Wagoner can look forward to playing Madison Square Garden in July. With a band featuring Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives, Wagoner will open for White Stripes July 24.

Stuart produced Wagoner’s new release for L.A.s Anti-label. His video for the Johnny Cash-penned “Committed To Parkview” is getting some play on CMT. He also recently celebrated his 50th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry with Dolly Parton and Patty Loveless participating.