Royce Porter will return to Sweetwater this weekend during Homecoming. Porter will attend several events involving the Sweetwater/Newman High School All Class Reunion including an event after the football game on Friday at the Texas Theatre, hosted by Randy and Jolanda Hendricks. He is also expected to attend the 3 p.m. to midnight event at the WASP Museum and is looking for any of his students he taught and invites them to attend with guitar in hand. Porter is also expected to be the Homecoming parade marshal and will be given a key to the city this weekend.
Royce Porter was born in Sweetwater, Texas on April 1, 1939, and as with many in the area, music was his first love. By an early age he was singing on the Saturday Night Jamboree at a Sweetwater theater.
Whilst still in his teens, he went to Houston and cut his first songs for Bennie Hess' Spade label. Cut at the AGA Studios, A Woman Can Make You Blue and I End Up Crying featured a strong rockabilly sound. Despite Porter's best efforts to push the disc at radio stations, the record failed to generate other than local sales. One of the visits brought him in touch with Starday's Pappy Daily who asked Porter to record for him.
In the summer of 1957 "Yes I Do," a song with strong Presley influences, was recorded in Fort Worth with Dean Beard on piano and The Kounts on backing vocals. It was released on the Mercury sub-label Look, and again sold well locally. His next release "Good Time"/"Beach of Love" was put out on Mercury Records proper (71314), but before he could make the most of this opportunity he was drafted. Whilst in the Navy, a single came out on Daily's D label, Lookin' and I Still Belong To You. (This can be found on the Bear Family box-set "The Complete D Singles" BCD 15832.)
Upon his discharge he changed directions and became a minister at the Baptist Church in Sweetwater. He returned to recording in 1965 with the Nat King Cole hit "Looking Back" released on FED Records out of Houston. Further singles with his brother-in-law Bill Funderbunk came out on Huey P. Meaux's 'Tear Drop' label. In 1969, with Funderbunk in the Army, Porter relocated to Nashville. He spent several years working small clubs before finding more success as a songwriting and becoming founder, with Bucky Jones, of Porter & Jones Music, a music publishing company now connected with Reeves Enterprises. The company has made him a rich man, who enjoys a home with a backyard landing on Old Hickory Lake, just like Johnny Cash, uh um. (Dale Watson moment!) Among his regular artists, none has cut more Porter songs than George Strait who has cut four Porter-Dean Dillon co-writes including the great chart-topper, Ocean Front Property. The CD "The Best Of Spade Records" has four Royce Porter tracks on it. "Yes I Do" is on "That'll Flat Git It, Vol. 11" (Bear Family BCD 16101).
Since his arrival on the Nashville music scene more than 35 years ago from Sweetwater, Texas, "Mr. Songwriter" Royce Porter, has given us some of the greatest songs of the last two decades, including 13 No. 1 hits, 12 of which have gone platinum, and record sales in excess of $65 million.
Royce was signed immediately in 1970 to Acuff Rose Publishing and began performing successfully to packed houses in Nashville clubs. He enjoyed entertaining — "I'm a people person" and acquired a loyal following.
In 1976, his song, "Glad I Waited Just For You," became Reba McEntire's first record. The following year Royce's timeless song, "Ain't Your Memory Got No Pride At All" was cut by Merle Haggard. (It was also covered by George Jones and Ray Charles, and also appeared on Doug Stone's 1993 album, "From the Heart".)
Later, Royce became Razzy Bailey's good friend and writing partner, joining him on the road as a backup singer until 1985 when Royce's writing career really began to take off with Keith Whitley's release of "Miami, My Amy." Realizing that traveling did not leave enough time for writing, Royce retired from performing, appearing only at benefits and various TV programs. Whitley seemingly validated this decision in 1986 with another Royce Porter hit, "Homecoming '63".
George Strait's single of Royce's, "It Ain't Cool To Be Crazy About You" followed in 1987 and in 1988 Strait's title track, "Ocean Front Property," debuted in the No. 1 position — a first for country music.
In 1989, Royce signed exclusively with Sony Tree Publishing teaming with among others — Red Lane, Bucky Jones, Hank Cochran and Dean Dillon.
Over the years, Royce has had more than 300 songs recorded and published (many in the Top Ten), has been nominated for awards by the Country Music Association, NARAS, and the Academy of Country Music; and has received 30 ASCAP Awards, but Royce seems most proud of his 1991 ASCAP Song of the Year Award for "What's Going On In Your World" by George Strait.
The hits just kept coming with Tanya Tucker's 1992 title cut, "(Without You) What Do I Do with Me," certified double platinum. Kenny Chesney recorded the No. 1 hit "A Chance" in 1996.
Now semi-retired Royce still produces a recording session occasionally, if he finds a candidate that sounds promising.