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August 10, 2012 2:00 PM   Subscribe

It's the Porter Wagoner Show! Starring Porter Wagoner and the Wagonmasters with Speck Rhodes and Norma Jean

The Porter Wagoner Show, a syndicated country-music variety show, aired from 1960 to 1981 with 686 thirty-minute episodes produced.

Porter, with his trademark Nudie suits, performed on each program. From 1960 through 1965 the star of the show, other than Porter, was Pretty Miss Norma Jean In 1965 Norma Jean left the show and was replaced by a then unknown 20 year old from Tennesse - Dolly Parton. Dolly and Porter enjoyed tremendous success with a series of duets. In addition to the regular cast, the Porter Wagoner Show was a proving ground and showcase for many country stars.


Chet Atkins Bobby Bare Carl Butler Bill Carlisle Skeeter Davis Guy Drake Rusty Draper Lester Flatt (with a 14 year old Marty Stuart) Lefty Frizzell Merle Haggard The Hinsons Waylon Jennings Jim & Jesse George Jones Wayne Kemp Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper Loretta Lynn Magaha & Trent Ronnie Milsap Willie Nelson Mark O'Connor (13 Year old fiddle grandmaster) Jack Palance (yes, that Jack Palance) Jerry Reed Jeannie C. Riley Hank Snow Red Sorvine Statler Brothers Mel Tillis Merle Travis Harden Trio Conway Twitty Kitty Wells Hank Williams Jr Faron Young The show ended in 1981, but reruns are regularly broadcast on RFD-TV - Rural America's Most Important Network.
posted by dirtdirt (32 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome -- I love old country music. Amazing how much more sophisticated (in terms of narrative and in many ways musically as well) that stuff was than what we have today. This is a great collection, thanks for putting it up!
posted by zipadee at 2:16 PM on August 10, 2012


Wow. Thank you very much.
posted by elmono at 2:16 PM on August 10, 2012


Wasn't Dolly just gorgeous? And that hair...

Thanks so much. This is amazing. I'll spend Sunday morning watching all these for sure.
posted by peacrow at 2:18 PM on August 10, 2012


A round of applause! Cold hard facts of life for me lies squarely in the uncanny valley that country music sometimes inhabits. Skin crawlin'.
posted by stonepharisee at 2:18 PM on August 10, 2012


It's like Saturday night at my grandparents' house again!
posted by Thorzdad at 2:29 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, man. You don't need me to tell you how fabulous Dolly was and is, but I dearly, dearly love me some Norma Jean. Just the perfect amount of crack in her voice. "I Wouldn't Buy a Used Car From Him" is just perfect.
posted by Fnarf at 2:31 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


OMG I remember seeing this show probably in the 1960s when I was a little kid. And surely this is one of the primary reasons that I absolutely can't stand C&W.

But for Chet Atkins, I can put all that aside. I only came to appreciate Chet on account of his work with Les Paul.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:32 PM on August 10, 2012


I've always wanted to see some of these old Dolly performances - thanks!
posted by Sara C. at 2:40 PM on August 10, 2012


It's like Saturday night as a kid in Franklin again!
posted by erniepan at 3:44 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


OMG, must go home and watch them all - I can still hear my sister trying to get me laughing doing her Dolly impression, going on about the rose on the back of one of the Nudie suits - 'Porter! Lookit them Flares!'

Thank you!
posted by pupdog at 4:02 PM on August 10, 2012


As a child of the '60s growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, watching this show was as much a part of Saturday night as getting my bath and picking out a dress to wear to (Baptist) Sunday School the next morning. Thanks for a trip down memory lane!
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 5:03 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I saw a lot of these at my Gran's house while I was growing up, which in turn, helped inspire my MeFi handle....
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 5:36 PM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


My Dad always watched this show. For some reason those boots walking down the hallway seemed like nightmare fuel to me as a kid. Well, that and those suits.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:27 PM on August 10, 2012


It has just now, literally this minute, struck me that this show was the C&W answer to the Lawrence Welk show...
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:29 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Spent a few summers in Abingdon Virginia @ my Grandparents farm. A budding a television addict back then, I would desperately watch just about anything that came on the tube, and the Porter Wagoner show fit the bill. Brings back memories!
posted by lotusstp at 7:30 PM on August 10, 2012


Killing post, absolutely killing. Love ol' Porter to death, and this is the best compendium of iternet video resources one could hope for. Thanks so much!

A little bit of Porter previously. (I was thinking that I'd made an FPP exclusively devoted to Cold Hard Facts of Life, but it seems I hadn't after all...)

One thing I'd like to mention, though, a word to the wise, and I say it as someone who has, over and over again, gone back to many of the various music-related YouTube-intensive Mefi posts I've made over the last several years, only to find those clips deleted-deleied-deleted-no-longer-available-deleted-etc: if there are clips here that you'd like to see again, maybe a few months or a year or two down the line... DOWNLOAD 'EM NOW!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:37 PM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


..this show was the C&W answer to the Lawrence Welk show...

No, Welk was bigtime. Porter Wagoner was equivalent to local and regional music shows like the Leo Greco Show. There were tons of these local variety shows. That one happened to be C&W. The big show in my area was a mix of hillbilly and polka. Leo Greco was on the air for like 40 years and there is not not one single bit of his music online except this one song.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:44 PM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the things I always really liked about Porter was his no-bullshit demeanor and attitude onstage. In a business where so many other singers would flash a big ol' toothy SHOW-BIZ! country SMILE! between every line they sang, Porter maintained a completely anaffected, stoic (one could say often steely) gaze, straight into the camera, as he delivered his songs. Those eyes of his, they bored right into your soul, if you were willing to meet them head on.

So, yeah, it's interesting that he wore those over-the-top spakly and colorful Nudie suits and became, probably more than anyone else in C&W, most associated with them. Perhaps he donned them to (consciously or unconsciously) make up for a distinct lack of flashy show-biz performance persona.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:05 PM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


OK, so, was Dolly's hair completely absurdly huge in 60's and 70's terms, or did people think, "wow, her hair is AMAZING"????

I mean, in some of those videos, it's really just preposterous. Did people think that was really her hair? Was it a deliberate joke? My experience of Southern life is that the notion of camp either doesn't exist or didn't exist back then for sure. Am I wrong about that?
posted by Sara C. at 8:09 PM on August 10, 2012


Was it a deliberate joke? My experience of Southern life is that the notion of camp either doesn't exist or didn't exist back then for sure.

That notion wouldn't be quite accurate. C&W camp existed, for sure. It's right there in Dolly's hair, it's right there in the Nudie suits, and in fact it's right there in the absurdly overplayed "hillbilly" look of comic characters like Stringbean and others. That's Southern Camp.

The Southern Camp hair, of course, was also later reinterpreted by Athens, Georgia's The B 52s, although with perhaps more of a nod toward 60s pop-music beehive/helmet hair styles.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:16 PM on August 10, 2012


I mean, I know, sort of? But wow. Just. Wow. I don't think someone parodying Southern women's big hair would construct anything that huge. It makes Kate Pierson's bouffants look like something Nancy Spungen would do.

Like, I mean, this is not even her biggest hair.
posted by Sara C. at 8:24 PM on August 10, 2012


Aha. This is the video where I started to think her hair had to be a joke.
posted by Sara C. at 8:49 PM on August 10, 2012


It hurts the troll in me so much that you didn't slip Lily Allen in there.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:45 PM on August 10, 2012


Wow!
This is cool.
I have the whole weekend to go through the videos.
posted by dougzilla at 9:52 PM on August 10, 2012


This one gets my vote for best post of August, even if the mods don't agree.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:17 AM on August 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Like other mid-Seventies-born kids, P.W. was a huge influence on my life, despite seeing few episodes at the time. Thanks for reminding us, dirtdirt. I've had the privilege of seeing a few Nudie suits on display and they are astounding.
posted by bonobo at 1:45 AM on August 11, 2012


"OK, so, was Dolly's hair completely absurdly huge in 60's and 70's terms, or did people think, "wow, her hair is AMAZING"????"

The bigger the hair the closer to God.
posted by jeffen at 8:45 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


My experience of Southern life is that the notion of camp either doesn't exist or didn't exist back then for sure. Am I wrong about that?

They even have TV now, in some places. And indoor toilets.
posted by bongo_x at 9:44 AM on August 11, 2012


I almost killed Porter Wagoner while he was walking his dog near his house.

I grew up in Nashville, and when I was 16 or 17 he lived near my high school. I was driving like a dick -- too fast and without fear -- and got a little wide going into a left hand curve. My right wheels dropped into the macadam "sidewalk", which is where Mr. Wagoner was walking his dog, ahead of me. He had to jump into the grass and almost fell ass-over-teakettle down a hill. Besides the "HOLY SHIT I ALMOST KILLED THAT GUY" thought that I immediately beat myself up with was the "NO F-IN WAY, THAT WAS PORTER WAGONER!" This was 1979-ish.

Link to where in happened.
posted by legweak at 1:04 PM on August 11, 2012


Obligatory mention: Rubber Room, live version from 2007
posted by CCBC at 2:33 PM on August 11, 2012


Somehow I missed this when I was growing up the late 60s and 70s, and never even listened to any of his stuff until about 5 years ago...my fiancee introduced me to it, and holy cow, that's some good stuff. Great post - thank you.
posted by davidmsc at 9:13 AM on August 12, 2012


bongox, I grew up in the south.

At least in my experience, the culture is less snarky, less ironic, and has less tendency to parody.

There is a subtle sort of camp aesthetic (the Nudie suit is a great example, as flapjax at midnite mentions), but often it's not recognized as such from the ground level.

Growing up in the south, I've known people who genuinely like The 700 Club, Peach Nehi, cream cheese & pepper jelly h'ors d'oeuvres*, and NASCAR. Not as a joke. Not with a wink and a nudge. There was no "put a bird on it" for Southern culture as I experienced it growing up.

*OK, this is unironically awesome, but it's rare to see anyone in the North eat anything like this with a straight face.
posted by Sara C. at 10:43 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


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