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An Exhaustive-and Slightly Exhausting- Bio of the Great Country Star
on January 19, 2014
Steve Eng's "A Satisfied Mind" must have been a labor of love to produce. The text is loaded with stories, stories and more stories. Author Eng has loaded in as many quotes and anecdotes as is humanly possible. SM is a virtual mini- history of country music. For example, country's Freddy Hart was a Marine in WW2, a bouncer in a Phenix City, AL nightclub, a dishwasher in New York and a karate instructor for the LAPD. He crossed paths with Porter by writing "Skid Row Joe". And Porter actually had a recording of "The Battle of the Little Big Horn" with `cannon balls a flyin' patterned on the success of Johnny Horton's "The Battle of New Orleans". It 'deservedly' failed to make the charts.
The carefully researched biography traces the life of country icon Porter Wagoner from his childhood in West Plains, MO well into the 1980s. Porter died of lung cancer in 2007, just after his 80th birthday. As an illustration of his diligence, the author conducted some 150 interviews, duly listed in the extensive appendix. There are 6 pages of source notes and a 14 pages of discography, where this reader located a gem of an album, "Porter Wagoner and Skeeter Davis Sing Duets". (This reader reviewed that one separately). Finally, there is a long list of approximately 200 folks who helped Mr. Eng in various ways. Furthermore, there are extensive photos of Porter over the years. Most of these of these are surprisingly clear. There are even renderings of the products PW used to promote on his long running TV shows most notably Black. Draught Laxative, Solstice Cough Syrup and Cardui Tablets. Mr. Eng has left few stones unturned in his portrayal of the man from West Plains. As an example, to pin down a former Dolly Parton residence, Eng searched through old Nashville telephone directories!
Speaking of Dolly, there just happens to be one problem with "A Satisfied Mind". There is simply too much ink devoted to her! Most of us know that she was Porter's TV show and duet partner for many years. She probably played a large part in his success, though some may argue that point. Yet, this reader purchased "A Satisfied Mind" hoping to learn more about Porter's life, not Dolly's. His is more interesting by far. This reader had-and still has-no interest in their quibbles though he loves their duets! He has their "Sweet Harmony" and "Essentials" albums and has rated both highly on amazon. But an honest reviewer has to call them as he sees them and author Eng went overboard here. There is such a wealth of material here, perhaps he did not know when to stop. Those stern editors with sharp blue pencils, who could have truncated the text, were laid off years ago. This carping is sufficient to lower the rating by one star. Country fans still have a treasure trove of material here. Buy and dive right in. What an effort, the author made composing "A Satisfied Mind"!.