Country music legend and longtime Grand Ole Opry host Porter Wagoner died last night (Oct 28th) of lung cancer at age 80, according to a news report posted on the Grand Ole Opry website. Always a fighting spirit, Wagoner was active for most of his years, despite the fact that just a little over a year ago he had been seriously ill after suffering an intestinal aneurysm. He somehow overcame this serious medical prognosis to make a miraculous recovery followed by a career comeback with a series of memorable performances, including a wonderful appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman (see the video clip of it below). Wagoner also played Madison Square Garden as opening act for the White Stripes at the insistence of the Stripes, who are huge fans of Wagoner's music. Unfortunately since he went on so early, not a lot of folks had already arrived at the cavernous midtown Manhattan arena. Throughout his career Porter Wagoner boasted over eighty songs on the country music chart, nineteen of them duets with Dolly Parton, whose career he helped launch and whose careers are often connected. They were named "country duo of the year" in 1970.
Truly a country music vet, Wagoner had recently celebrated his fiftieth year in the Opry (he joined the Opry in 1957) and a little earlier this year released the critically acclaimed album Wagonmaster on ANTI Records. Look for it along with other recordings from the Missouri-born artist in the country sections at Amoeba Music. Today's LA Times summed up Wagoner's legacy accurately by writing, "His showmanship, rhinestone suits and pompadoured hair made him famous, with his own syndicated TV show, The Porter Wagoner Show, for 21 years beginning in 1960. It was one of the first syndicated shows to come out of Nashville, and it set a pattern for many others." For more information on the late, great Porter Wagoner visit his official website.