Nov. 22: CMA Remembers Porter The Country Music Association's CMA Close Up News Service on Wednesday sent out a couple of nice stories in honor of the late Porter Wagoner, Dolly's former longtime duet partner and mentor, celebrating his life and career. They have been posted on this site here
Nov. 10: Porter Back On The Charts With sales picking up in the days following his death, Dolly's former mentor and duet partner Porter Wagoner is back on the country charts this week, Billboard announced in the Nov. 17 numbers Thursday. His Wagonmaster release from earlier this year, which features a new version of "My Many Hurried Southern Trips" (written with Dolly back in the 1970s), shows back up at No. 63, which is nine points higher than its previous peak at No. 72 in the one week it originally appeared on the chart back in June. The re-entry once again, though, ties him with Johnny Cash for the longest career span on the country chart, as both artists appeared on the first one back in 1964 and both are on the new chart released this week.
Nov. 5: More Memories Of Porter Keith Herrell, managing editor of Cincinnati's The Post, over the weekend offered a wonderful remembrance of Wagoner in a column available here, and I'm told that Friday night's Grand Ole Opry performance was dedicated to his memory and featured a moment of silence in his honor. Sunday's Belfast Telegraph in Ireland also presented a nice tribute from BBC Radio Ulster host Ralph McLean here.
Nov. 3: Some Final Thoughts On Porter Published The Tennessean on Friday offered a very eloquent story on Porter Wagoner's funeral from Thursday, noting that his longtime duet partner Dolly "didn't need to sing 'I Will Always Love You' to convey the song's central truth." Read it here. I'm told there's also a brief story on his passing in the new Entertainment Weekly with an early Porter & Dolly photo. Thanks, Diane. And a columnist at The Argus Leader in South Dakota shared a happy memory from interviewing him many years ago. Take a look here. Publicity image. Courtesy photo.
Nov. 2: Dolly: 'Goodbye, Porter'
After 80 years in this world, country music legend Porter Wagoner was sent off Thursday in song at The Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. The service opened with a playing of "Sheltered In The Arms Of God," his recently-recorded duet with Dottie Rambo. Among those lifting their voices on stage in honor of The Wagonmaster were Marty Stuart with "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" and Duane Allen of the Oak Ridge Boys with "When I Sing For Him," among several others. Vince Gill, joined by Patty Loveless and Ricky Skaggs, offered "Go Rest High On That Mountain," which was reportedly the final song which Wagoner heard before he died on Sunday night.
Immediately after the sound system played Porter & Dolly's final duet, "Drifting Too Far From The Shore," released in August on his Best of Grand Old Gospel 2008 CD, Dolly, wiping a tear from her eye, entered the stage with Don Warden, a former member of the Wagonmasters and Wagoner's longtime road manager before he left to assume the same position with her, by her side. She offered her condolences to his family and said she was certain it was "a real sad day for everybody but Porter," whom she said she knows was "rejoicing in the light." She explained that she wanted to sing a different song, presumably "I Will Always Love You," which she wrote about him nearly 35 years ago, but she was afraid she would be unable to get through it, so instead she led The Grand Ole Opry family in "I Saw The Light," singing the verses on her own and asking everyone, including the 1,700 mourners in the audience, to join in on the choruses.
Her final words as the song ended were a solemn, "Goodbye, Porter."
The service then closed with prayer, followed by the moving of his casket to the hearse for transfer to the cemetery.
Several television stations in Nashville carried the services live on the air and it was available for live online viewing as well. The entire services remain accessible in streaming video from Nashville's NewsChannel 5 in two parts here and here. The station's video news story about the event is posted here, and a segment showing photos and footage of the end of the funeral with Dolly leading the song may be seen here. The station's written version of the story is posted here.
Dolly's complete remarks from the funeral:
This is Don Warden. He's the oldest Wagonmaster. I'm sure all of you know Don. (Applause) And probably we've been with Porter longer than anybody. Don definitely has since he was kids, even before he was kids. And we wanna give our condolences to Debra and Denise and Richard and to their in-laws and to the grandkids. And this is a very special day. I wanted to sing something else, but I was afraid I couldn't get through it. But I wanted Don to come and help me and all the Opry members sing this song that we've sung a million times on the Grand Ole Opry and Porter loved it and Don used to sing all that high part on Porter's records. You think you can do that again, Don? (Don: I'll try.) You didn't bring your steel guitar ,though, did ya? (Don: No.) Anyway, I think this is probably a real sad day for everybody but Porter, but I believe in my heart that Porter is rejoicing in the light. (Applause) And I remember back before Porter even got sick a few months back with the other aneurysm, well, Porter had sent me a whole bunch of tapes of gospel songs that he'd recorded. And, oh, he was talking about all the gospel stuff, and I said, "Porter, are ya crammin'? (Laughter) After all those years of living like we did?" And course he said, "Yeah, I guess I am crammin', but I think I'm ready to go." And I believe that Porter is with God today. And so all of you can sing along with us on this song that we all love. And we all love Porter and we'll all miss him. And may God comfort the family and be with you, too. So if you're ready, they wanted me to start the verses, so I guess I'll do that.
Nov. 1: Porter Tributes Continue, Services Thursday The Nashville Scene on Thursday offered its tribute to Porter Wagoner, which is available online here. WSM 605AM radio in Nashville aired a five-hour tribute to him Wednesday night with several Dolly references and don't forget that the station, home of The Grand Ole Opry, will broadcast the funeral services of Dolly's longtime duet partner from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Central time Thursday at The Opry House, available for live streaming online here. Nashville's News Channel 5 reported on Wednesday's visitation and Wednesday night's Americana Music Awards tribute here, noting that the station will offer live video coverage of Thursday's services on its website.
Oct. 31: Wagoner Services To Air On Radio WSM 650AM radio, home of The Grand Ole Opry, announced Tuesday that it will air funeral services for Porter Wagoner live on Thursday, beginning at 11 a.m. Central from the Opry House. You will be able to listen to the services live here online, but as was reported previously, they will also be open to the public if you wish to attend.
Several additional friends paid their respects publicly on Tuesday. Merle Haggard recalled how close he was to both Wagoner and Dolly, adding: "He was one of the real faces on Rushmore when it comes to Nashville, Tenn., and the Grand Ole Opry. He was a lifer. He spent his entire life living up to being Porter Wagoner on the Grand Ole Opry. He was serious about that, and he did a very good job of it."
George Jones offered: "He was a hero and a great gentleman for country music and the Grand Ole Opry . . . Country music lost a bit of sparkle with the passing of Porter Wagoner."
Dwight Yoakam said: "His legacy and charismatic influence is legendary and remained dynamically palpable and present until his death . . . Porter Wagoner will continue to have a resounding influence on country music for generations to come."
The Tennessean reported here that Wednesday night's opening celebration for the Americana Music Association's annual convention, which had been planned months ago as a musical tribute to Wagoner, will serve instead as a memorial with friends Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller, Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris and others offering their performances in his honor.
Springfield, Mo., television station KY3 here called him the "personification of real country music." Other remembrances came from The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., here, Huffington Post columnist Steve Anderson here and USA Todayhere. The Tennessean profiled his relationship with a neighbor here, and PBS show The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer closed its Monday night broadcast in tribute to him playing video of a 1974 performance of "The Right Combination" with Dolly. Porter & Dolly image is a courtesy photo.
Oct. 30: Thursday Services For Porter Although "The Wagonmaster" departed for his eternal home on Sunday night, his earthly remains will return to his musical home one more time this week, it was announced Monday. Funeral services for Country Music Hall of Fame member Porter Wagoner will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday in The Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, with interment to follow at Woodlawn Cemetery. Wagoner served as the public face of the Opry for many years and was one of the institution's most frequent performers and hosts. Visitation will be held from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. Wednesday at Woodlawn Funeral Home, 660 Thompson Lane, in Nashville. Both the funeral and visitation will be open to the public. Memorials may be made to Alive Hospice (1718 Patterson Street, Nashville, TN 37203) or The Opry Trust Fund (2804 Opryland Drive, Nashville, TN 37214).
Several friends on Monday offered their reflections on the legendary performer/songwriter/producer's life and career, including longtime duet partner Dolly, who revealed she was with him and his family on Sunday during his final hours. In a prepared statement, she said: "When Porter died, it was like a piece of me died with him. We were always so attached musically and emotionally. Part of him will always live through me and my music as he was my first big break . . . I went over on Sunday afternoon and spent his last few hours with Porter and his family, so I was able to say goodbye. I sang for him and prayed with him. It felt good that I had the opportunity to say goodbye properly. His family is very grateful to everyone for all their help." (In another statement, she said: "Losing Porter is like losing a member of my family. I will miss him, as we all will. We were always so attached musically and emotionally. But a part of him will always live through me and my music. I feel fortunate that I got to spend the last hours with Porter. I had hoped to say a proper good-bye and God saw fit to allow that to happen. He will be missed.")
Patty Loveless, who as a teen-ager hung around Porter & Dolly learning the ropes in the music business, recalled: "Porter was my mentor in the early years of my musical journey and over the years became like family to me. He encouraged me and helped me to fulfill my dreams and was truly an inspiration. I love him and I miss him already."
Marty Stuart, who produced his critically-acclaimed Wagonmaster CD earlier this year, offered: "Losing Porter is going to take a whole lot of getting used to as he's been a part of my life for so long. I grew up watching his television show in Mississippi and it was as if he were a member of our family. After I got to know him, he was. He was a masterful showman, who understood the art of the final act. He left the world on top. Some of the things that soften the blow of his passing are all the memories from the past year."
The Tennessean opined on his influence and legacy in country music, noting poignantly: "To pick up on the line Parton made famous, Nashville will always love Porter Wagoner." Read that editorial here and the paper's continuing coverage of his passing here and here.
An updated Associated Press story is available here, and The New York Times offers an obituary here. CMT.com has a written story available here and a streaming video story here, promising more coverage on this weekend's CMT Insider.
WSM 650 AM in Nashville has announced an on-air tribute which will be broadcast Wednesday from 7 p.m. until midnight (listen live online here) and XM satellite radio's Channel 10 plans a tribute Wednesday morning. Great American Country (GAC) repeated his Grand Ole Opry 50th anniversary special from May featuring Dolly, Stuart and Loveless twice Monday night and has placed it on the schedule for additional airings at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday, 8 p.m. Saturday and midnight Sunday morning. The cable network has also posted several video clips of a recent interview with him on its website here. And The Grand Ole Opry on Monday posted streaming video clips of Dolly's performance of "I Will Always Love You" in his honor at the May event and a spotlight video which aired during the program. Both are available for viewing below courtesy the Opry and YouTube.
Oct. 29: Porter Wagoner Passes At Age 80
One of the greatest duos in music history was silenced this weekend with the passing of Porter Wagoner on Sunday night. He was 80. The singer, known for his trademark rhinestone suits, was one of the figures most directly responsible for nurturing the talents of Dolly, taking her under his wing and exposing her to national television and touring audiences as his weekly TV show and concerts' regular "girl singer" and duet partner from 1967 until 1974, although they continued to record duets together for two years past that.
He also co-produced her albums during this period, putting his distinctive stamp on all of her recordings during what many critics consider the most prolific of her career. As a duo, the pair logged 14 top 10 singles and won three Country Music Association Awards, and she has long confirmed that she wrote "I Will Always Love You," one of the most successful songs of all time and named the No. 1 pop love song in history by VH1 and the No. 1 country love song ever by CMT, about her decision to leave his program.
They were estranged for about a decade following Dolly's crossover into pop, resulting in his suing her for breach of contract, but they reconciled in the late 1980s and have remained very close friends ever since. They have performed together on numerous occasions over the past two decades, most recently in May at a special Grand Ole Opry show in honor of his 50th anniversary as a member of the country music institution.
He revealed in recent years that when he was faced with a large back tax bill several years ago and not enough funds to pay it, she purchased his songwriting catalog so he could pay off the debt, and when he had earned enough money to buy the songs back and contacted her about it, she returned full ownership to him at no charge. A new duet recorded more than a year ago was released on Wagoner's Best of Grand Old Gospel 2008 in August. He had said in recent months that they planned to record a new complete album of duets within the next year. They last appeared publicly together in June when he presented her with the Academy of Country Music's Pioneer Award.
Long regarded as the ambassador for the Opry, he last appeared on the program on Sept. 29. He was hospitalized for observation in Nashville on Oct. 15 but was soon moved to intensive care. He left intensive care, but remained hospitalized, on Oct. 19, with Dolly visiting him later that day, but he was diagnosed soon thereafter with lung cancer.
On Friday, he was discharged from the hospital and moved to hospice care, which aims to ease the pain and suffering of those facing the final weeks of their life as they succumb to terminal illness. Generally, hospice patients have been determined by a doctor to have less than six months to live. Two days after his hospice transfer, he died.
Our prayers go out to his family and friends. Letters of memory and support may be mailed to Porter Wagoner Enterprises, P.O. Box 290785, Nashville, TN 37229. Read an Associated Press obituary here and one of the first reports of his passing from The Tennesseanhere. CMT.com's coverage is available here.
Oct. 24: Porter & Dolly Orbited The Moon Here's a piece of history I had never heard before: Porter Wagoner and Dolly were part of the 1969 first landing on the moon. According to an interview with Apollo 11 commander Maj. Gen. Michael Collins, a friend of his who was a Houston disc jockey called up several of his friends in the country music world and had them record a tape that was played during the flight to the moon which he piloted. "We had a special half hour by Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton and then Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, and it was all personalised. You know – 'Charlie, we don't know where you are but we know you're on the way to the Moon and we hope you like this music. This song is especially for you.' We had a lot of serious work to do and we did it but with a good humor." The interview was part of the promotions for the Ron Howard documentary In The Shadow Of The Moon, which opened in the U.S. earlier this fall and starts next month in the U.K. Read more of the interview from British newspaper The Independenthere. At left, Porter & Dolly's "Always, Always," released within days of the moon landing.
Oct. 23: Wagoner Remains Hospitalized Porter Wagoner, Dolly's former duet partner, remained in serious condition in a Nashville hospital Monday following news of his cancer diagnosis, television station WKRN reported here. Also, on his official website, his daughter Debra Jean on Monday provided fans a little more information. She reported that he was released from intensive care on Friday afternoon, after which he took the previously-reported Dolly visit accompanied by Don Warden, her former road manager and one of Wagoner's former Wagonmaster band members. "What a sweet special moment for Daddy visiting with these two special longtime loved friends," she recounted. On Sunday, visitors included additional Wagonmasters and Grand Ole Opry family members Little Jimmy Dickens, Marty Stuart, John Anderson, Jeannie Pruett, Carol Lee Cooper and Jim Ed Brown as well as a phone call from Merle Haggard. "A warm loving feeling is surrounding our Wagonmaster in his hospital room," she continued. "I know you're keeping Daddy in your prayers."
July 26: Porter Rocks With White Stripes Alt rockers The White Stripes had a little Dolly influence on their Madison Square Garden show in New York Tuesday night. In addition to Jack White's usual cover of Dolly's "Jolene," the evening featured opening act Porter Wagoner, her longtime duet partner. Read The Hollywood Reporter's review here.
June 23: ACM Stories, Photos Published Coverage continued Friday of Dolly's Pioneer Award ceremony for the Academy of Country Music this week. The daily Celebrities column in Nashville's The Tennessean devoted nearly its entire space to the event, starting with Porter Wagoner's playful banter with her over whether her famous chest played in any role in his giving her the big break of joining the cast of his national television show in 1967, and a sizeable section is offered with Ashley Monroe discussing meeting her for the first time that night before going out to salute her by singing "But You Know I Love You" in the ceremony. Read more here. And Music City Update on Friday posted several great photos from the night's festivities. View them here! Photo by Aaron Crisler/GospelMusicUpdate.com. See additional photos on Dollymania here!
June 22: Academy Fetes Dolly Several stories on Thursday recapped Dolly's appearance in Nashville to accept the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music. Ashley Monroe paid tribute to her by singing her 1981 No. 1 "But You Know I Love You," while bluegrass queen Rhonda Vincent brought the house down with her take on "Jolene." Longtime duet partner Porter Wagoner introduced her, explaining: "She was so different, so unique sounding and really and truly that's why I hired her for The Porter Wagoner Show. It wasn't because she had big boobs." During her award acceptance, Dolly countered: "And, yes, you did hire me because I had big boobs." She also got several laughs with her comment: "This is a great honor. Of course when they told me I was winning the Pioneer Award I thought, 'Well, how appropriate 'cause I remember when me and Porter came to Nashville in our covered wagon.'" A story from The Tennessean is available here, while CMT.com's coverage is here and a story in both written format and streaming video is offered by Nashville's WKRN here. In addition, gospel legend and good Dolly friend Dottie Rambo was present for the evening and has posted several backstage photos on her website here. (Visit Photos and choose "ACM Pioneer Award Ceremony").
June 18: U.S. Chart Updates Former Dolly duet partner Porter Wagoner debuts at No. 72 on the June 23 Billboard country albums chart released last week with Wagonmaster, which features a new solo recording of the Porter & Dolly-penned "My Many Hurried Southern Trips." Wagoner is now tied with Johnny Cash for the longest span on the country albums chart, as both have discs on it this week and both were on the first chart when it premiered back in 1964, which was 43 years, five months and two weeks ago. (Wagoner's album would last one more week on the top 75 before falling off the chart. Cash continues to chart albums in subsequent weeks, so he recaptures the record for his own.)
June 14: Porter: Duets Album Probable In a new interview released Wednesday night by Toronto's NOW Magazine, former longtime Dolly duet partner Porter Wagoner says the pair will likely record a new duets album within a year. "Dolly and I have talked about doing another duets album, and we probably will in the next year or so," he told the publication. "The reason our duets worked so well is because we thought a lot alike and we had a good harmony blend. We sounded like what you get when a brother and sister learn to sing with each other, rather than, say, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, who always sounded like two people singing solo together." Read more here.