Recommendation XVI: Porter Wagoner

Right now, I’m sitting in the lounge of my dorm residence hall typing this up late Sunday night/Monday morning because I feel like I need to put up my tribute to the late Porter Wagoner as soon as I could. Once I read the news a few hours ago, I was shocked and very saddened, though I knew it was coming some time. I do have class tomorrow (or I should say, later today), but it’s not until about noon, so I should be fine, and I really want to do this.

My sixteenth recommendation is: Porter Wagoner’s “Committed to Parkview” from his 2007 Wagonmaster album. Right away after reading of his passing, I felt the urge to listen to his music, because I, unfortunately and regrettably, did not own any of his music before this, even while excellent reviews from sites such as The 9513 and Country Universe raved about the album. When I did listen to the clips of Wagonmaster when it came out earlier this year, I liked it a lot and of course, was thrilled by Porter Wagoner‘s devotion to the traditional, classic country sound and I loved that Marty Stuart produced it. For some reason, sometimes with these older country singers/legends, I shy away from their work at times because I feel like my ears only have enough time for my favorite artists and ones I know better. I know that’s a terrible way to be and it’s a plague that hits a lot of the younger generation of mainstream country music listeners and it’s not good. It seems like it’s only until the singer turns for the worst, or dies, that people pay attention to them, and I admit I did that right now. I knew about Porter’s recent health issues but didn’t really think much of it, other than I hope he’ll be fine and make it through. The country music industry and the listeners should learn by now that an artist should be honored for their contributions to the genre before it’s too late, and there’s been so many times when they had their chances to but waited too long until after they were gone to honor them (Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings, etc.). There are, of course, exceptions, and I’m glad that the Grand Ole Opry gave Porter a very worthy tribute some months ago for his 50th anniversary with his friends: Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless, Marty Stuart, and on – that was a great show! I always thought that the Porter & Dolly duets I’ve heard before were really cool, and I’m glad I did know a good amount about him before all this. I just didn’t own any of his music, until now.

So, anyway, I started listening to some more music from Wagonmaster and I was bent on buying some tracks from it because I knew it was good – I just didn’t pay enough attention to it. I started off buying only a couple of the tracks and really enjoyed them because they’re so country and some songs had a nice Ray Price-ish sound. Then I ended up “completing my album” on iTunes (since I had bought so much, I might as well just get it all haha) and this marks the first album I’ve ever bought the whole thing of online! (one that I don’t have a physical copy of). I remember reading about the greatness of “Committed to Parkview” and I knew there was a music video to it as well (you can watch it here), so I wanted to do this one for the recommendation. The story behind it is that Johnny Cash wrote the song and personally wanted Porter to record it, so Cash handed it to Marty Stuart (the producer of the album) back in 1981, but Marty forgot to deliver the song to Porter, and finally remembered when he was helping Porter choose songs for this album, and here it is! Listening to “Committed…”, you can hear the Cash-influence and sound through its simplicity and song-telling way that Cash had in his style. The instrumentation sounds just like an acoustic guitar but most of it is spoken with very little music in the background. It’s the lyrics that are so compelling. The lyrics are about a man’s experience in a mental hospital: a first-hand narrative of the people who occupy the rooms and what they’re like. I’m sure there’s a further deeper meaning to the words in the song, but it seems you can only comprehend them if you were actually a patient there, but Porter, through his haunting delivery of the story, places the listener as close as they can get to experiencing Parkview. (I have typed out the lyrics below, but there are a few words I could not distinguish, so any help with those would be very much appreciated.)

Wagonmaster is a powerful album and I hope that any reader of this blog will, at least, listen to one or more songs and remind yourselves to not forget about the heroes and legends of country music because they will not always be here, but their music will be, if you continue to listen to and support it. Other fantastic tracks from this album (they’re all awesome) but my main other favorites would be:  “Satin’s River”, “A Fool Like Me”, “Who Knows Right from Wrong?”, “Hot Wired”, “A Place to Hang My Hat”,  and the last track: “Porter & Marty”, which is Marty interviewing Porter, with Porter singing two songs in between (“Men With Broken Hearts” & “[I Heard That] Lonesome Whistle Blow”). There are 17 tracks in all, which are all worth listening to!

Rest in peace, the “Thin Man From West Plains” – and like Dolly, we will always love you. Read the news story about his death and find out more about him here.

Thanks for reading!

Buy the song here on iTunes now!

Here are the full lyrics to “Committed to Parkview”, written by Johnny Cash:

[You know, I’ve been a guest in a lot of great places in my lifetime:
New York City: Carnegie Hall
Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee
West Plains, Missouri: hometown
And I was committed to Parkview
I hope I never have to go there again]

There’s a man across the hall
Who sits staring at the floor
And he thinks he’s Hank Williams
Hear him singing through the door

There’s a girl in 202
Who stops by to visit me
And she talks about her songs
And the star that she should be

There’s a lot of real fine talent
Staying in or passing through
And for one thing or another
They’re committed to Parkview

There’s a girl in 207
Coming down on Thorazine
And the superstar’s ex-drummer
Trying to kick Benzedrine

There’s a real fine country singer
Who has tried and tried and tried
They just brought him in this morning
An attempted suicide

There are those who never made it
Those who did and now are through
Some came out of their own good choosing
Some committed to Parkview

There’s a girl who cries above me
Loud enough to wake the dead
They don’t know what she has taken
That has scrambled up her head

There’s a boy just down below me
Who’s the son of some well-known
He was brought in by his mother
‘Cause his daddy’s always gone

There’s a bum from down on Broadway
And a few quite well-to-dos
Who have withdrawn from the rat race
And committed to Parkview

They wake me about 6:30
Just before the morning beat
They’re taking my blood pressure
They ask me how I feel

And I always say “fantastic”
There ain’t nothing wrong with me
Then they give me my injection
And I go right back to sleep

And my days are kind of foggy
My nights are dreamy too
Oh, they’re taking good care of me
While committed to Parkview…

—————————————————-
http://www.porterwagoner.net/

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5 Comments

  1. At least on the Johnny Cash versions of this song (on his “One Piece at a Time” and “Highwaymen” albums), it’s “There’s a girl in 307, coming down on thorazine” and “And a superstar’s ex-drummer trying to kick benzedrine”

  2. ahh, okay! Thank you Mike for those – I think they’re right. I’ll have to check out Johnny’s versions too.

  3. Here’s a new article from Country Standard Time:

    Monday, October 29, 2007 – Dolly Parton, whose career took off after Porter Wagoner hired her to sing, spent time with the late singer Sunday just hours before he died.
    “I went over on Sunday afternoon and spent his last few hours with Porter and his family, so I was able to say goodbye,” said Parton in a prepared statement. “I sang for him and prayed with him. It felt good that I had the opportunity to say goodbye properly. His family is very grateful to everyone for all their help.”

    Marty Stuart, who produced Wagoner’s last disc, “The Wagonmaster,” said, “Losing Porter is going to take a whole lot of getting used to as he’s been a part of my life for so long. I grew up watching his television show in Mississippi, and it was as if he were a member of our family. After I got to know him, he was.”

    “He was a masterful showman, who understood the art of the final act. He left the world on top. Some of the things that soften the blow of his passing are all the memories from the past year. We made a wonderful record together that got him lots of acclaim, he celebrated his 50th anniversary with the Grand Ole Opry, he had a new generation of kids in love with him and his music, the awards were coming, the Martin Guitar Company had named a guitar in his honor and he was asked to light the nation’s Christmas tree at the Pageant of Peace celebration in Washington, D.C. next month. One of the last things he said to me was, “You’re gonna’ have to call the President and tell him I won’t be able to sing him any Christmas songs this year. Maybe next year.”

    Singer Patty Loveless referred to Wagoner as “my mentor in the early years of my musical journey and over the years became like family to me. He encouraged me and helped me to fulfill my dreams and was truly and inspiration. I love him and I miss him already.”

    Dierks Bentley visited Wagoner last Tuesday in the hospital. He said Wagoner “led us in a prayer. He thanked God for friends, family and the Grand Ole Opry.”

    “This is a great loss for country music and the Grand Ole Opry. It’s also a great loss for me personally because he was a friend I was really just getting to know. I feel blessed for the time I did have with him.”

  4. …And for anyone with XM Satellite Radio, “XM remembers Porter Wagoner”:

    Monday, October 29, 2007 – Porter Wagoner will be remembered with special programming by XM Satellite Radio this week following his death Sunday at 80 from lung cancer.
    The Wagoner episode of “Bill Anderson Visits with the Legends” will air all day Tuesday on XMX (XM 2).

    A memorial show will air Tuesday on XM’s classic country channel “America” (XM 10) at 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. eastern, featuring a retrospective of his songs, as well as interview and performance highlights from Wagoner’s prolific career.

    A special encore of Bob Edwards’s conversation with Wagoner, originally broadcast in June, will air on Friday, Nov. 2 at 7 a.m. eastern on “America” (XM 10). Fans will hear Wagoner discuss his life in country music as well as his final project, “Wagonmaster,” which was produced by country artist and XM host Marty Stuart and earned Wagoner some of the best reviews of his 50-plus year career.

  5. Here’s another interesting tid-bit:

    Over the summer, he also was the opening act for the influential rock duo White Stripes at a sold-out show at New York’s Madison Square Garden…

    After his New York show in 2007, tears came to his eyes as he recalled the reaction.

    “The young people I met backstage, some of them were 20 years old. They wanted to get my autograph and tell me they really liked me. If only they knew how that made me feel, like a new breath of fresh air. To have new fans now is a tremendous thing.”

    – from AOL News


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