Monday, February 16, 2015

Porter Wagoner – "Green, Green Grass of Home" (1965)

The old house is still standing
Though the paint is cracked and dry

The contemporary British novelist Rachel Cusk recently told an interviewer that she found conventional storytelling techniques "fake and embarrassing."  Writing fiction – that is, making up characters and having them do things together – now seemed "utterly ridiculous" to her.  

"Autobiography is increasingly the only form in all the arts," Cusk told the interviewer.

British novelist Rachel Cusk
Wake up and smell the cat food, Rachel Cusk!  2 or 3 lines figured that out a long time ago.  Hence the relentless outpouring of autobiographical anecdotes and other narcissistic blather that is featured in virtually every post to my wildly popular little blog.

Believe it or not, I can even turn a post about country singer Porter Wagoner into autobiography.  

Wagoner became a star as a result of being a featured performer on the ABC-TV series, Ozark Jubilee, in 1955.  That show was broadcast from Springfield, Missouri, which was only an hour from Joplin, where I grew up.  

The performers who appeared on Ozark Jubilee included country music legends Eddy Arnold, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Wanda Jackson, Sonny James, Webb Pierce, and Faron Young.  (The first time Carl Perkins sang "Blue Suede Shoes" on TV was on Ozark Jubilee.)

Wagoner left Springfield and moved to Nashville to join the Opry, and got his own syndicated television show, which ran from 1960 to 1981 – there were 686 half-hour episodes altogether.

One of my vivid childhood memories is watching The Porter Wagoner Show on Saturday afternoons at my grandmother's house.  I don't know why I watched it – I hated (or thought I hated) country-western music when I was a kid, and I don't recall that my grandmother was a particular fan of Porter Wagoner's music.  

Maybe we watched it simply because there wasn't anything else better to watch.  Joplin only had two TV stations back then.

Dolly and Porter
Porter Wagoner is probably best remembered for his long-time association with Dolly Parton, who became a featured performer on his show when she was just 21 years old.  

The two singers released 18 singles together between 1967 and 1976, 13 of which were top ten hits.  (Dolly didn't have a top-ten solo record until 1970, after she had released a half-dozen hits with Wagoner.)

I vaguely remember Dolly singing with Porter.  But what I mostly remember are Wagoner's outrageous outfits and his spectacular blond pompadour.

Porter Wagoner
I lost track of Wagoner after leaving Joplin to go to college.  But he had a pretty interesting career.  He brought James Brown to the Grand Ole Opry stage, was interviewed by Sacha Baron Cohen on Da Ali G Show, and opened for the White Stripes at Madison Square Garden a few months before he died in 2007.  (He was 80.)

"Green, Green Grass of Home" was one of Wagoner's biggest hit singles.  It reached #4 on the country-western charts in 1965.  (Wagoner charted a total of 81 singles as a solo artist.)

The song was originally recorded by Johnny Darrell that same year.  (In 1967, Darrell was also the first singer to record Mel Tillis's "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," which became a big hit for Kenny Rogers & The First Edition two years later.)

The Tom Jones cover of "Green, Green Grass of Home" is the version I'm most familiar with.  The song was also covered by Charley Pride, Roger Miller, Dean Martin, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Hank Snow, Trini Lopez, Joan Baez, George Jones, Elvis Presley, Gram Parsons, and Kenny Rogers – not to mention French, Swedish, Brazilian, and Serbo-Croatian singers.

Here's the legendary Dalida's French-language cover:

Here's a Swedish cover:

I was originally going to feature the Tome Jones version because 2015 is the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, and for I moment I thought that Tom Jones was Armenian.  But Tom Jones is Welsh, of course.  (The Welsh and the Armenians have about as much in common as Hottentots and Eskimos, so God only knows what caused that brief hallucination on my part.)

Too bad Kim Kardashian didn't cover "Green, Green Grass of Home."  After all, she's Armenian:

(Kim's frontside is a garden of
earthly delights as well)
Here's Porter Wagoner's "Green, Green Grass of Home":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

No comments:

Post a Comment