Porter Wagoner, who was known as “Mr. Grand Ole Opry”, lived in Pennington Bend in a modest brick ranch-style house typical of the kind seen in Donelson. Neighbors in Donelson often saw him in town at the grocery store or at local restaurants. After his death in 2007, The Tennessean’s Gail Kerr (who grew up in Donelson), wrote that “folks refer to Porter as a musical icon, the Thin Man from West Plains, or the Rhinestone Troubadour, but in 37214, he’s just called neighbor.”
Although well known for his many rhinestone suits and blond pompadour while performing on stage, Jeannette Rudy, whose family sold some of their farm in the Pennington Bend area in the 1960’s and 70’s where Opryland and the Grand Ole Opry were built, remembered all the times they had coffee together and the song he wrote for her, simply titled “My Neighbor”.
Porter Wagoner’s career spanned almost 60 years and he was an RCA Victor recording artist between 1951 and 1980, charting 81 records. The Porter Wagoner Show was a big hit for television and one of the first syndicated shows in Nashville, airing from 1960 to 1981. He earned three Grammy’s for his Gospel recordings with the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. Porter was also a fan of R&B, bringing James Brown to the Grand Ole Opry and produced an album for Grammy-award winning singer Joe Simon.
Some of the albums that Porter recorded in the 1970’s were considered “conceptual albums” in that they were built around a particular theme. Porter’s final album in 2007 called “Wagonmaster” was produced by Marty Stuart (also a Donelson neighbor at one time) and it too was thematic, written around an unrecorded Johnny Cash song called “Committed to Parkview”. The album received rave reviews and was considered a return to raw, classic country music.
I hope you enjoy this small selection of Porter’s recordings I chose. Some of the tunes he wrote were no doubt written right here at his home in Donelson.
Highway Headin’ South (written by Porter Wagoner)
Big Wind (written by George McCormick, Wayne Walker, and Alex Zanetis)
What Ain’t to Be, Just Might Happen (written by Porter Wagoner)
Indian Creek (written by Porter Wagoner)
Singing on the Mountain (written by Porter Wagoner)
Please Don’t Stop Loving Me (written and performed by Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton)
Raining Blues at Midnight (written by Porter Wagoner)
Be A Little Quieter (written by Porter Wagoner)
A Great Donelson Neighbor, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Lived in Pennington Bend, Mr. Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, Porter Wagoner