It has been 63 years ago, on September 11, 1954, when Porter Wagoner recorded his signature song “A Satisfied Mind” in the studios of KWTO Radio in Springfield, Missouri. At that time the station was a mecca for live talent featuring the cream of the crop performers in the Midwest. Porter was the leader of the most popular and successful entertainers at the time.
Wagoner was presented with a song called “A Satisfied Mind,” written by Red Hayes and Jack Rhodes. Porter was a strong believer in the song and its message, and the track he recorded that day in the KWTO studio, accompanied by only Herschel “Speedy” Haworth on lead guitar and Don Warden on steel, was considered strong enough on its own merit to be released just as it was.
“A Satisfied Mind” went on to top Billboard’s country charts in the summer of ’55. Several renditions of the song were released at the same time, but Wagoner’s was the only one to reach #1 and his recording proved to be the all-time definitive version.
Porter Wagoner’s “A Satisfied Mind,” written by Red Hayes and Jack Rhodes is probably one of the classic country songs that has the most profound wording.
Behind the Song
In the early 1950s, Red Hayes was a fiddle player from East Texas, trying to carve out a name for himself in the music business in that area. He had played in several bands and written a number of songs, but none of the playing and writing had done anything to boost his career.
The song was inspired by Hayes and his father-in-law’s casual idle chit-chat, about who Hayes thought was the richest man was. Hayes pondered the question for a short while, then, started to enumerate the names of the richest people he heard or read about that time. The elder man laughed at each answer before finally informing Red that he was going in the wrong direction. He then added, “the richest man in the world is the man with a satisfied mind.”
Considering his father-in-law’s observation, Hayes also began to think back on the many things his Bible-reading mother had taught him. She spun her wisdom in common language, and Red had listened, remembered his mother’s advice, and applied it to his own life. The woman’s moral character was deeply woven into Red’s fiber. Early on he had realized, just as his mother had proclaimed, that money didn’t buy much real happiness.
As Hayes looked back to the days of his youth, he began to understand that his mother’s entire life had been a lesson in how to find happiness and joy in each hour of every day. As he took a seat, Red began to jot down his mother’s thoughts. Fragments from his memory of lessons long ago thus established the formula for “A Satisfied Mind.” With a little assistance from a songwriting friend of his, Jack Rhodes, Hayes completed what could be called a testimony in song. He sold the piece to Starrite Publishing Company.
Porter Wagoner first recognized the potential in Hayes’ song. Having grown up in poverty himself, the singer appreciated the song’s full scope. His family, although poor, had embraced the life they were given in a full and joyful manner. They had no money but still seemed to have a grip on the most important elements of living. As much as Wagoner enjoyed the money his newfound success was bringing to him, he also realized that the good paychecks were only letting him live better, not happier. In “A Satisfied Mind,” Porter had found a way to prove to the folks back home that his values hadn’t changed when he moved up success’s ladder.
Porter Wagoner brought the radio station to its Top Ten territory for the first time when he sang the blockbuster follow-up, “A Satisfied Mind.” They emerged with “A Satisfied Mind,” and the recording they made that day at the radio station is the one that RCA released, became a #1 hit, and is still heard today. RCA’s A & R director Steve Sholes felt the original version couldn’t be improved upon at the Methodist Television, Radio and Film Commission (the studio in Nashville that RCA was leasing for sessions at that time), so a re-cut wasn’t ordered.
Porter’s recording of “A Satisfied Mind” spent four weeks at #1 and a total of eight months on the national playlists. It established Wagoner as a potentially major player in Nashville, should he decide to go that route. Porter did just that, leaving Springfield and joining the Grand Ole Opry in 1957. He developed his own, highly-successful syndicated television show in 1960, which aired for 21 years. At its peak, the program was seen in over 100 markets. Over time, Wagoner gained so much power that he would be able to broker record deals for others at RCA, most notably Dolly Parton.
Many renditions of “A Satisfied Mind” were released over the years, not only by country stars but by pop acts as well. Six versions had appeared on the country listings by 1983. Wagoner’s rendition of “A Satisfied Mind” proved to be the “signature song” of his career. His recording surpassed all others in sales and radio airplay and remains the definitive version of this all-time classic.
a satisfied mind, poter wagoner
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