Country Western legend and Missouri native Porter Wagoner is dead at the age of 80.
Wagoner died under hospice care in Nashville, Tennessee. He had been admitted to a hospital October 15th to be treated for lung cancer. The Grand Ole Opry honored Wagoner in May for his 50 years with the Opry. He served as the front man for the Opry after replacing Roy Acuff.
Wagoner was known as "The Then Man From West Plains". Country singer Mary Stuart produced Wagoner’s "Wagonmaster" album this year and called him, "An American master and a cornerstone of our music."
Wagoner won a Grammy three times and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He said his best loved songs included, "A Satisfied Mind," "Misery Loves Company" and "Green, Green Grass of Home." "Misery Loves Company" hit number one on the Country charts in 1962.
It was a television show originated from Nashville that spread Wagoner’s fame and introduced the music world to the then unknown Dolly Parton. Wagoner recorded several duets with Parton before she broke away for her solo career in 1974. Parton wrote "I Will Always Love You" about Wagoner after the break-up.
Then there was Wagoner’s clothes. He wasn’t the first to wear the shiny rhinestone suit, but he clearly made a statement with the sequins. Wagoner’s suits were reported to be so heavy a person had trouble lifting them with one hand. Many of the stage outfits told stories with glittering wagon wheels and other symbols.
Wagoner was born in West Plains in 1927. The Great Depression made a big impression on him. His older brother, Glenn Lee, taught him to play guitar and music became a way to escape poverty. Wagoner actually envisioned being on the Grand Ole Opry stage as a young man, using a tree stump on the family farm as his makeshift stage.
A stint on West Plains radio station KWPM encouraged Wagoner’s dreams of stardom. His first big break came in 1951 when KWTO in Springfield hired him for a show that later became the famous Ozark Jubilee. In 1952, he recorded for RCA Victor, and one year later Carl Smith had a No. 2 country hit with Wagoner’s "Trademark." Two years later, Wagoner had a Top 10 hit of his own with "Company’s Comin’, and in 1955 he went to No. 1 with "A Satisfied Mind." Less than two years later, he moved to Nashville and joined the Opry. Wagoner launched The Porter Wagoner Show from Nashville in 1960.
Wagoner is survived by three children, Richard, Debra and Denise. Visitation and funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.