On This Day: Porter Wagoner Becomes Grand Ole Opry Member in 1957

by Clayton Edwards

Porter Wagoner was one of the biggest personalities in country music. Throughout his career, he worked to keep classic country music alive. At the same time, his long-running television show introduced audiences to the best that country music had to offer. Wagoner is also the man who introduced the world to Dolly Parton. Many see this as his most important contribution to country music. No matter how you look at it, the Nudie Suit-wearing country crooner is a legend. On this day sixty-four years ago, he joined the Grand Ole Opry.

Porter Wagoner’s career started in 1950. Within a few years, he was cutting records for RCA, sporting Nudie Suits, and making a name for himself. Just seven years after embarking on his musical journey he joined the Grand Ole Opry. Ten years later, he would introduce the world to Dolly Parton. He could have retired after twenty years and country music fans would still remember him as a legend.

He didn’t retire, though. In fact, he kept recording for decades. It was in 1983, over three decades into his career, that Porter Wagoner stopped recording. He didn’t walk away from music, though. In fact, he continued to perform regularly at the Grand Ole Opry for years to come, according to the Opry website. When Roy Acuff passed away in the early nineties, Wagoner stepped into his position as the Opry’s elder statesman. The Wagonmaster will forever be linked to the Opry.

Porter Wagoner: Mr. Grand Ole Opry

Porter Wagoner celebrated fifty years as an Opry member in 2007. They marked the occasion with an amazing tribute show. It featured performances from the Grand Ole Opry square dancers, Marty Stuart and Porter Wagoner, and of course Dolly Parton. The night was a celebration of not only his time with and dedication to the Opry but also all Wagoner did for country music over the years.

Aside from the performances, Marty Stuart announced that Porter Wagoner was putting out a new album that year. The album would be his second since he stopped recording in the eighties. It was titled Wagonmaster and would be the icon’s final release. Stuart and Wagoner performed a song from the album.

The evening closed with Dolly singing “I Will Always Love You,” to Porter. He sat on a stool on the stage and Dolly sang directly to him. It had been decades since their professional partnership ended but you could tell the connection between them never truly faded. It was the perfect way to end the celebration of such a monumental milestone.

Later that year, Porter Wagoner succumbed to lung cancer and passed away at the age of 80.