Porter Wagoner Remembered

WEST PLAINS, MO. -- Many in Region 8 are mourning the loss of a southern Missouri country legend.  Porter Wagoner died on Sunday after a short battle with lung cancer.

Wagoner started his career at KWPM in West Plains, Missouri.

"We'd have wall to wall bands and that's where Porter really began to establish his talent," said Laurel Thomson.

Porter Wagoner is being remembered by those who knew him.

Laurel Thompson worked for KWPM back in the early 50's as the chief engineer and worked with the country icon.  He remembers Wagoner doing live remotes when he worked as a butcher at a West Plains grocery store.

"We went through the telephone switchboard got the line patched in and for five or ten minutes before he opened up the store at 8:00 a.m. he would sing and talk about the days specials," said Thompson.

Driving up the main drag through town you can't help but notice the name of the road: Porter Wagoner Boulevard and while he may be known around the world he may be best loved in his home town.

His last performance in Region 8 was in 2003 at the West Plains Civic Center.  He performed for the largest crowd they've ever had for a country music show.

"We celebrated Porter Wagoner Days and had a tremendous output from the community," said Thompson.

"It really moves him that he was remembered at home by so many people and loved by so many people. I think that's what people will remember.  He never forgot his roots," said Mike Crase, Program Director for KAMS just outside of Thayer, Missouri.

Wagoner was the first country musician to have his own television show.  "The Porter Wagoner Show" featured another rising star, Dolly Parton.

For the guys at radio stations in South East Missouri, Porter Wagoner was almost like another member of the family.

"The first recording that I remember around here that was cut locally is 'Uncle Pen' and that's an old song that Porter loved to do and did many times.  I think that they'll remember Porter as the local guy," said Thompson.