FIELD OF DREAMS

Opry star Porter Wagoner left the dusty cornfields of Missouri to find superstardom in Nashville

"I think one of the reasons I've had some success is I love what I do," declares Porter Wagoner, looking back over his amazing life and career. "And I'm as big a fan of country music as anybody is.

"I remember when I was a boy plowin' corn in Missouri, and the dust was flyin' everywhere, I was imitating Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb and talking to myself, pretending I was on the air with the Grand Ole Opry."

Porter doesn't have to pretend anymore -- and he hasn't since 1957 when he was asked to join the Opry, an event he views as an absolute career high point.

"There's something about being a member of a club that has so few members as it has," explains Porter. "It's been a great thing for me. I take a lot of pride in what I do, and the Opry has given me that pride."

Still building on a legendary career that includes more than 80 albums -- including his latest, Unplugged -- three Grammys, several CMA awards and a syndicated television show that lasted an astounding 21 years, Porter recently capped his career with the ultimate accolade -- induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

"Along with becoming a member of the Opry, my greatest accomplishment was probably the television show," admits Porter. "The TV show allowed me to show my wares, to show my talent to people every week, by the hundreds of thousands, if not millions."

It also did a thing or two for a then-unknown singer named Dolly Parton, who joined the cast of the show in 1967 and soon began recording duets with Porter. The rest, of course, is country music history.

"When we started the show in 1961, I'd hoped maybe it would last a year," he declares. "It'd give me a chance to get my name a little better known. And I would've been happy if it'd lasted a year. And 21 years later, I looked back at it and thank God, this has been spectacular. Absolutely."

On his new album, complete with a vocal assist from buddy Willie Nelson on "Family Bible" and "When the Silver Eagle Meets the Great Speckled Bird," Porter's still sounding as good as ever.

And he's come a long way from that dusty Missouri cornfield. "There I was standing in the field pretending I was on the air with the Opry. I didn't know nobody was close to me. And a neighbor boy I went to school with was standin' out at the end of the field and heard me.

"And he said, 'Who were you talkin' to there?' And I said, 'I was pretending I was at the Grand Ole Opry. I was pretending I was Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb.'

"He said, 'You're as close to the Grand Ole Opry as you'll ever be. You'll be lookin' these mules in the rear end when you're 65!' "

Porter grins. "So I hope that old boy gets to read this."

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