On This Day: Porter Wagoner Makes His Grand Ole Opry Debut

by Madison Miller

Porter Wagoner was known as Mr. Grand Ole Opry.

How did the popular country singer get his nickname? He first made an appearance at the Grand Ole Opry in 1955 on January 22.

The singer first had success on local and radio and television shows. However, after signing with RCA in 1952 he started releasing records and touring consistently. Eventually, his work on tour paid off when he was offered a cast member position on the Opry.

His name as Mr. Grand Ole Opry came from the fact that he was a consistent performer up until he died in 2008. The star performer had 81 singles between 1954 and 1983. He would become a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1957 and formed his famous backing band, the Wagonmasters.

Work with the Grand Ole Opry

Throughout his career, Wagoner brought in a lot of talent to the Opry. He brought James Brown to the stage, who had just produced a rhythm and blues album.

Wagoner was also the host of “Opry Backstage” during the 1990s.

In 2007, Wagoner celebrated his 50th anniversary as a member at the Grand Ole Opry. He celebrated by hosting the Ernest Tubb Record Shop’s “Midnight Jamboree.” He spotlighted his former backup singer Christie Lynn. Jeannie Seely, Jim Ed Brown, Stella Parton, and Carol Lee Cooper were on stage to congratulate Wagoner for the career milestone.

Dolly Parton, his lifelong singing partner, was also at his 50th-anniversary bash. She was among one of the many talents that “The Porter Wagoner Show” helped jumpstart a career for. He was also the ambassador for the Opryland USA theme park.

Opryland USA

The Opryland USA theme park operated from May 27, 1972 to December 21, 1997.

The park had nine themed areas, rides, and live and orchestras. A new book called, “Opryland USA: Images of Modern America,” will help fans relive the experience of the deceased theme park.

According to WPLN News, Opryland closing has always been a bit of a mystery. In fact, most people just assumed it was due to financial reasons. However, the owner of the business always said that money was never the problem. So what was it that caused the thrill and sounds of country music to vanish from this theme park?

The most likely reason is that owners thought they would get more money out of the large expanse of land if they sold it.

The former Gaylord CEO Bud Wendell did not agree with the choice the eradicate the theme park.

“Dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. And the people that were responsible for it, I would think today would look back on it and say, yeah, it was a dumb, dumb decision. But they felt they could get a greater return on that piece of acreage out there if it were a mall as opposed to a theme park — America’s only musical theme park,” Wendell said.

Allegedly, owners at the time said that the park would not stand up to tech investments. However, Dollywood, a similar competitor, has survived and even has an annual economic impact of more than $1.5 billion.