Remembering Porter Wagoner -- We honor the Grand Ole Opry singer

By Chris Willman
Updated November 02, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

”One thing’s for certain, when it comes my time/I’ll leave this old world with a satisfied mind…” Porter Wagoner had been singing that chorus, optimistically portending his own death, ever since ”A Satisfied Mind” became his first No. 1 country hit in 1955. And upon passing away from lung cancer at age 80 on Oct. 28, Wagoner still had grounds for personal fulfillment: In June, the Grand Ole Opry star released Wagonmaster, a comeback CD that he considered ”the best album I’ve ever done”; a month later, he opened for the White Stripes at Madison Square Garden. Suddenly, against all odds, Porter Wagoner was a rock star.

Some remember Wagoner best as the host of his own pre — Hee Haw 1960s TV variety show; others know him as Dolly Parton’s original duet partner (she wrote ”I Will Always Love You” about their professional breakup in 1974). But country devotees revere him as the Opry’s preeminent rhinestone cowboy — a genial, glittery showman whose bonhomie didn’t prevent him from singing stark ballads like ”The Cold Hard Facts of Life” and ”Green, Green Grass of Home.” Those darker songs are the ones that gained the notice of twentysomethings. ”People that have never heard of Porter Wagoner are hearing about him now,” he told EW in June. ”I’m very proud about that.” Knowing that Porter enjoyed that late-career resurgence…well, that leaves us with satisfied minds, at least.