Let’s Look Back – Part 21

Porter Wagoner was standing in the door of his dressing room when I walked by backstage while the Saturday night Grand Ole Opry show was under way. He asked me to come in because he had something he wanted to show me. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Porter Wagoner was standing in the door of his dressing room when I walked by backstage while the Saturday night Grand Ole Opry show was under way. He asked me to come in because he had something he wanted to show me. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

It’s a question I’d have difficulty answering.

The question I have in mind would be something like this: “Which do you like best – bass fishing or country music? The truth of the matter is I flat out love ‘em both.

As the title of this column indicates, it deals primarily with events from the past. When I begin reflecting on my own bag of special memories I don’t have to look back very darn far to remember times when my love for bass fishing and country music have rubbed noses.

In this column I’d like to look back at what transpired when I had a chance spend a little time in Nashville, Tennessee. That city, of course, is the heart of country music. And nothing you’ll find there provides more proof of what I’m saying than Saturday night at the Grand Ole Opry.

If you’ve read some of the material the guy who is responsible for putting this website together has written about me, you’re aware that I’ve done almost as much exhibition casting around the world as writing. It was the casting that got me to Nashville.

The first time I got there was when I’d been asked to do my thing at an outdoor show in Nashville. I jumped all over that opportunity, but I agreed only after making a special deal with show management. The deal was that I was to do my casting early enough on Saturday night to permit me to get away in time to visit the Grand Ole Opry.

I got to actually go backstage while the show was being telecast around the country. One of the stars at that particular show was Hank Snow. You’d have to have been around for awhile to remember Hank, but he was one of the top performers at the time.

All that show did was leave me with a tremendous itch to get back. When that eventually did happen it came in a special package that left me with special memories that I keep wrapped in red ribbons.

My wife and I were on a cruise when we met Tom and Lois Adkinson. They were a really nice couple. It turned out Tom was in charge of publicity for the Grand Ole Opry. I told Tom of my love for country music. He told me that if I ever got to Nashville again to let him know. He told me he’d see that I was well taken care of. Did he ever!

I was eventually invited to appear at an outdoor show in Nashville again. I called Tom and he got both my wife and I backstage at the Opry. Tom knew all the Opry stars and we met most of them. This was while the national TV show was on the air.

Remember what I said about bass fishing and country music rubbing noses? I saw it happen! And as a matter of fact, I had a hand in it.

It took place when our back stage travels took us by Porter Wagoner’s dressing room. Porter was standing in his doorway as we came by. “Hey,” he said when he spotted me, “are you that guy who was doing the fancy casting on TV from the outdoor show last night?”

I replied that I was.

Porter had autographed pictures of famous folks from all over the world on the walls of his dressing room.  He also had pictures of some beautiful bass he and country singer Merle Haggard had caught.  That's what he's showing me here. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Porter had autographed pictures of famous folks from all over the world on the walls of his dressing room. He also had pictures of some beautiful bass he and country singer Merle Haggard had caught. That’s what he’s showing me here. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

“C’mon in here,” he said, “I want to show you something.” Photos of autographed pictures of famous folks from all over the world were on the walls of Porter’s dressing room. But that wasn’t what he wanted me to see.

What he pointed out in a prominent spot were a couple of photos of him and Merle Haggard. They each were holding the end of a stringer filled with beautiful bass, smallmouth if my memory isn’t playing tricks on me.

Porter went on to tell me the details of how he and Haggard had boated those fish and we shot the breeze for a time about bass fishing in general before he had to head on out for his Opry TV appearance.

Wagoner’s interest in bass fishing didn’t surprise me all that much. I’d been following his career ever since it started. I knew that he was as “hooked” as the rest of us bassin’ nuts. Besides that, he’d always been one of my favorite country music artists.

I love country music.  It was a thrill to share some thoughts about things with Bill Monroe, often referred to as the "Father of Bluegrass Music." Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I love country music. It was a thrill to share some thoughts about things with Bill Monroe, often referred to as the “Father of Bluegrass Music.” Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Tom Adkinson made sure we met darn near all of the Opry stars that were on hand that night. I also enjoyed so much my visit with Bill Monroe, the talented old timer who is generally recognized as the “Father of Bluegrass Music.”

I learned something else that most folks weren’t aware of at the time. It was that Roy Acuff, another of country music’s oldtimers, was almost totally blind. He was still performing, but once he got off camera someone was there to latch on to his arm and guide him to wherever it was he wanted to go.

Tom Adkinson also made arrangements for us to attend a Platinum Party for country singer Mark Chestnut. That event was held at the old Ryman Auditorium, the home of the Grand Ole Opera for many years.

I could also tell you about how a bass fishing event like the annual Classic gave me opportunity once to have breakfast with the late Ray Price. I could also detail how I got to meet and visit with Roy Clark, a guy who could do everything with a guitar but turn it inside out.

I’ve always felt richly blessed by the life God has let me lead. Be that as it may, if I had to start all over again I’d take a long, hard look at country music as the line of work I’d endeavor to follow one way or another.

I suppose my comments regarding country music and bass fishing are based primarily degree on my personal sentiments. That’s why my chance to spend some time with Porter Wagoner is such a treasured memory. I hope Tom Adkinson knows how much his help making it happens meant to me then and still means to me now.

Porter and I parted company wishing we could share a bass boat. That’s not going to happen. He has been gone now for several years. But who knows? Maybe he’s saving a spot for me in the rig he’s using these days at that great lake in the sky!

 

  • Harold Sharp

    We started inviting country music stars to the BASS Classic in 1973, Roy Clark was the first and followed each year by many great country music artist that loved to Bass fish, all we promised them was a few days of Bass fishing. Stan was also invited as a Press Angler each year and he always looked forward to spending time with country music artist that would be there.