Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Cold Hard Facts of Life

Porter Wagoner died this weekend.

I missed that. Didn't find out until this afternoon. Been busy. Way busy. And still busy.

But, I just feel I need to talk for a minute about Porter Wagoner.

If you don't know who Porter Wagoner was, you missed a showman. You don't have to like country music ... heck, I don't ... to appreciate Porter.

He knew his audience, he loved his audience, and his audience loved him.

He had the rhinestone-studded outfit, the big country music hair.

Porter Wagoner looked the part. And he lived the part.

We used to watch Porter Wagoner back when he had his show on TV.

Now, you might be wondering why I'd watch The Porter Wagoner Show if I didn't like the music.

Well, you gotta remember ... this was back when folks had just one TV. Hooked up to an antenna. And when the knob fell off and was lost, you had to get a pair of pliers to change the channel.

Yeah, we're talking a while back.

And we ... my sisters and me ... didn't control the TV. The grown-ups did. And they watched Porter Wagoner.

I'd half-watch it. I'd pay attention when Speck Rhodes came on. He was the comedian, you see. And, well, comedians are funny. Or, they have to be if they last. And he lasted the entire run of the show. So, yeah, he was funny. And we'd watch.

Sort of like on the Jackie Gleason Show. I didn't pay much attention until Crazy Guggenheim came on.

Anyway, we'd watch Porter Wagoner.

My great-grandmother, "Ma," liked Porter and his singing partner, Norma Jean. She didn't know that Porter was cheating on his wife with Norma Jean. She knew that there was trouble around the same time that Norma Jean left the show and Dolly Parton showed up. And, I think that Ma suspected that Dolly was the problem.

Whether or not she thought Dolly was a home-wrecker, she always called her "a hussy."

Might have been the tight outfits that showed off Dolly's assets. Might have been thinking Dolly was screwing Porter (she wasn't). But Ma never did like Dolly.

I might have watched the show when Dolly came on. For a couple of reasons.

But, even with the others on the show -- Speck Rhodes, Norma Jean or Dolly Parton, the square dancers that always featured some little pre-teen girl out-dancing the grown folks, the musical guests -- Porter was always the star.

Last year, I saw Porter Wagoner hosting a segment of the Grand Ole Opry. And he was in charge.

He worked the audience and gave all the attention and applause to the guests. And running a live radio/TV show, he timed it perfectly. That impressed the heck out of me. Not bad for anyone, to say nothing about a man nearly 80 years old doing it.

Like I said, I was never a fan of country music.

But, Porter Wagoner was a star. Not just a country music star.

He was a star.

And I'll miss him.


  1. I'm reading that and thinking of all those Breeze towels Ma musta had ...

  2. I thought about the towels in the soap box, too! heh

    So tell us, Basil, what were the two reasons you'd watch?

    Actually, I thought he died a year or so ago!

  3. What a nice memory! My late father's favorite duo was "Porter 'n Dolly" - they became this one very popular entity that played all night long on his stereo. Thanks for sharing this nice memory - 'long after we've forgotten, the song remembers when.'


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