Perhaps Porter Wagoner should be remembered as the original “Rhinestone Cowboy” because of his penchant for sparkling two-piece rhinestone often adorned with wagon wheels and other cowboy themes — at one point he owned over 60 suits.
The longtime country music legend died at 8:25 p.m. CDT in a Nashville hospice Sunday night at the age of 80 from complications resulting from lung cancer.
Born in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, Wagoner was a regular on the radio show “Ozark Jubilee.” He signed his first record deal with RCA Records in 1955. Two years later, he joined the Grand Old Opry, where he was a perennial favorite. In 1960, he appeared on “The Porter Wagoner Show,” one of the first syndicated shows to be produced in Nashville, which had a 21-year run. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002.
Not only was Wagoner a consummate performer, but he also wrote many great classic country songs, one of the most memorable of which was Green, Green Grass of Home.
Wagoner is also credited with giving Dolly Parton her first big break. He hired the then-fledgling young artist in 1967 to be his duet partner. That relationship produced a string of hits, but finally ended in a lawsuit that was settled in 1980 for an undisclosed amount.
Wagoner had recently signed a new record deal and produced his last and final album, Wagonmaster, with Marty Stuart. It was released in June to critical acclaim.
The loss of this great legend is felt throughout the Row today, but there is perhaps a new constellation in the sky, the Rhinestone Cowboy.