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Saying farewell

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Porter Wagoner dies at age 80

NASHVILLE -- West Plains native and Grand Ole Opry star Porter Wagoner died Oct. 28 in a Nashville hospice. Wagoner was 80 years old.

A spokesperson for the Grand Ole Opry said Wagoner became known as the "The Thin Man from West Plains" because of his lanky frame. Wagoner shared with other Opry stars that he spent hours as a child pretending he was an Opry performer using a tree trunk as a stage.

He started in radio, then became a regular on the "Ozark Jubilee," one of the first televised national country music shows. It was broadcast nationwide from downtown Springfield in the late 1950s.

Wagoner signed with RCA Records in 1955 and joined the Opry in 1957. In May 2007 Wagoner celebrated his 50th year in the Opry.

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. Opry officials said it was one of the first syndicated shows to come out of Nashville, and it set a pattern for many others.

In 2002, Wagoner was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Wagoner is also famous for launching the career of Dolly Parton, his duet partner. He hired the 21-year-old singer as his partner in 1967. They were the Country Music Association's duo of the year in 1970 and 1971.

Some of Wagoner's hits, many he co-wrote, include, "Carroll County Accident," "A Satisfied Mind," "Company's Coming," "Skid Row Joe," and "Green Green Grass of Home."

Wagoner played at the Opry Oct. 13. His sister Loraine Hall of Springfield said at that performance he got short of breath and weak and doctors thought he had pneumonia. Hall said when tests were run, a mass was found on one of his lungs.

Wagoner has another sister, Lola Brandt, 95, who is a resident in a West Plains nursing facility.

Funeral services for the performer will be Thursday at the Grand Ole Opry.



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