Monday, October 29, 2007

Porter & Dolly

Sad news for country music fans today. Porter Wagoner died yesterday in Nashville. He was 80 years old.

Porter was more than his flashy, rhinestone-covered cowboy suits. At it's peak, his syndicated television show attracted over three million viewers an episode. And when that national exposure combined with Porter's showmanship and the overwhelming talent of his new "girl singer" in 1967, it was the perfect storm and launched Dolly Parton's career.

Porter helped Dolly find her stage persona. Porter deliberately sang duet after duet with Dolly so that his television audience would warm up to her (something they were not quick to do, due to the fact that the audience loved Norma Jean, the "girl singer" that Dolly replaced).

Since it was Porter's show and Dolly was ON Porter's show, Porter controlled Dolly. No doubt this created tension between them, but it made Dolly a better entertainer. Eventually, better than Porter.

Dolly talks about how singing an "S" helped her realize that it was time to leave Porter's show.

You see, when she and Porter began singing duets in 1967, if there was an "S" at the end of a phrase, Dolly would drop out and Porter would sing it, so that it wouldn't sound like a pack of snakes invaded the recording studio with all the "S's" being heard.

Then, something happened.

They never discussed it, but somewhere in the middle of her seven year run, Porter started dropping out and Dolly started singing the "S." It was Porter's show, but Dolly was becoming the show's star. She knew it was time to go.

Leaving wasn't easy. There were hurt feelings - - between Dolly and Porter as well as between Dolly and country music fans. Everyone thought she was abandoning Porter, the man who had given her all her success. But Dolly had more than paid her dues to Porter. She appreciated all that he had done for her, but it was time for her to follow her own dreams.

That's when she wrote this song. To explain why she was leaving. To the fans, but mostly to Porter.

And this clip of Dolly singing the song to Porter at the celebration of Porter Wagoner's 50th anniversary on the Grand Ole Opry is the perfect way to remember him today.

Here's Dolly singing, "I Will Always Love You."

You may prefer Whitney Houston's version of this song, but for me and for most Southerners, we want to hear Dolly sing her song. It's a "Dance with the one that brung you" kind of thing.

P.S. At Dolly's concert here in Chicago a few years ago, a local Dolly Parton drag queen attended the concert and brought with her a man dressed as Kenny Rogers and another man dressed as Porter Wagoner.

In the middle of the concert, Dolly said, "I hear that Porter and Kenny and Dolly are in the house tonight," and in seconds the house lights bumped a little bit and the three impersonators stood up just rows in front of me.

Dolly saw them in the audience and said...
"Lord, I've gone so far, I've met myself comin' back!"


Elizabeth said...

Ah, memories of my family vacation to the Opry and Dollywood when I was 12.

Stephen, this is Betsy, your Paula Deen waiting-in-line partner from last year (!)...After you sent me pictures of those ladies with the T-shirts, I saw your blog address and you've been make me laugh daily ever since.

I actually saw you on the bus last Friday after work but I didn't say hi because I didn't want you to think I was a weirdo :)

Anyway, thanks for the blog. It's a fun diversion; you're fabulous and I can't wait to see you in a show someday (or on the 146 again?)!


whimsicalnbrainpan said...

I'll take Dolly's version anyday!

roborange said...

AS a kid, I used to watch this every week with my parents. We even went to the Grand Ole Opry when I was a kid.
As a tween, my Mom took me to see
Dolly at the Houston Rodeo.
Thanks for the memory reboot.

ATwistedThought said...

Thanks for the interesting read and I would also take Dolly's version.i have been to the Opry but not Dollywood...I may just have to plan a little trip it's not that far.

Stephen Rader said...

Elizabeth - WOOHOO!!! It's SO perfect that I'm hearing from you because I just cam across the piece of paper I used to write down your name and email address that day at the Paula Deen book signing!! It's fate!!!

Please say hello the next time you see me on the 146, on the street or whatever. Hell, email me and we can meet up for coffee or cocktails or both!!

Thank you for the kind words about my little blog. I really needed a pick-me-up tonight and your words really did the trick!!

Hope to see you soon!! Email me!! Now I have to figure out where I put that piece of paper with your email address on it after I found it yesterday.

Whim - Yep. Dolly's version. Hands down.

Roborange - Thank you!! Nice to know there are so many others out there who enjoy some Dolly and Porter duets!

A Twisted Thought - You really should visit Dollywood! It's a wonderful theme park with incredible roller coasters, great shows, down home cookin' and store after store filled with homemade quilts, hand-carved musical instruments - - they even have glass blowers and an eagle sanctuary IN THE PARK!!! You will love it!

And by the by, I love your blog!! Thanks for the comment!

Sue Ann Nivens said...

Dolly's version all the way . I saw Dolly at the MN state fair with my Mother,it was the year that her Heartbreaker album came out , Shit I can't believe I said album, it dates me , but thanks for giving me a flash back of a great time with my Mom .

Stephen Rader said...

Sue Ann Nivens - First of all, I love your cooking show! You out Martha Martha. Truly!

Thanks for the comment. I love Dolly. She seems to bring up so many fond memories for people.

And don't worry about calling it an album. I say the same thing. Sure, I'm dating myself. But the sex is FABULOUS!!

supertiff said...

i ddin't know the backstory to t his song. thanks for's way more touching now that i can think of this instead of that crappy whitney houston movie.

Stephen Rader said...

supertiff - Thanks, supertiff! Great blog you've got there!