Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton is a Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter and has starred in such movies as Nine to Five, Steel Magnolias and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. A favorite of many was her starring in the major motion picture Straight Talk. Her entertainment park, Dollywood, brings hundreds of thousands of people each year to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Dolly Parton is a smart businesswoman and is very involved in humanitarian efforts. She is the rags to riches Queen of East Tennessee who tops the list of America's superstars. Dolly Parton has been asked so many questions that it would take volumes of pages to list them. The following are a few that many find very humorous. Answered in a way that is uniquely Dolly. Enjoy!!


Were you always a dreamer?

     "I'm sorry. What did you ask me? I was daydreaming. Seriously, yes I have always been a dreamer. It used to drive my mother crazy. She used to always say, "You and your dreams." I hope to someday write a book by that name."

How poor were you really?

     "Well, I'll put it this way. The ants used to bring back food they'd taken from us because they felt sorry for us."

Are your fingernails real?

     "They're real expensive, and real long."

Why do you wear five-inch heels?

     "Because I can't find six-inch ones. I never liked being short and felt I needed the height to set off my width. Even what I wear for slippers are old worn out high heels."


How do you feel about gay rights and gay people?

     "Well, I believe in "human rights" and the Scripture, "Judge not, lest ya be judged." I have many gay friends who I love dearly. I have also lost some very special friends to AIDS. I believe that being gay is something you are, not something you do."

How do you feel about premarital sex?

     "I never had sex I didn't like."

What do you think is your best feature?

     "I think it's my smile, not my boobs, although they are two of my biggest assets."

What do you want people to say about you one hundred years from today?

     "Boy, she looks great for her age!"


Dolly Parton has recorded a new Bluegrass album titled, "The Grass Is Blue."

Dolly's new album will be released October 26, 1999

"I've been singing bluegrass music all my life, gospel too. But I've scattered it throughout different albums. I think that The Grass Is Blue is the purest thing I've ever done. It truly is inspired." - Dolly Parton

The Grass Is Blue

She calls it a "natural thing" and a "spiritual experience." Her producer calls it "the most inspired work she's ever done." 
The artist in question is Dolly Parton and the album is The Grass Is Blue, the legendary singer-songwriter's debut bluegrass collection. Parton has been singing mountain music all of her life and has frequently sprinkled her LPs and CDs with bluegrass numbers. She has finally devoted a full album to the music of her girlhood. 
"This was really a charmed and blessed project," says Parton. "It was like a spiritual experience. When I would go into the studio and hear these musicians play it was like going to the world's greatest concert. Seriously, it would move me so much when Jerry Douglas would take a turn on the dobro, or when I would hear Sam Bush play mandolin or Stuart Duncan play fiddle. It moved my soul. God's bluegrass band is what it was." 
Producer Steve Buckingham surrounded her with such stellar talents as Jim Mills on banjo, Bryan Sutton on guitar and Barry Bales on upright bass. Alison Krauss, Claire Lynch, Keith Little, Rhonda and Darrin Vincent, Alan O'Bryant, Louis Nunley, Dan Tyminski and Patty Loveless added vocal harmonies in various combinations during the sessions. Parton led them through classics by Flatt & Scruggs ("I'm Gonna Sleep With One Eye Open"), Johnny Bond ("I Wonder Where You Are Tonight") and The Louvin Brothers ("Cash On The Barrelhead"). 
She dipped into her own songwriting catalog to rework "Will He Be Waiting For Me" and "Steady As The Rain" as bluegrass numbers. Parton also brought new compositions to the project, notably "Endless Stream Of Tears" and the album's title song. She returned to her Appalachian roots to transform the traditional ballad "Silver Dagger" into haunting bluegrass performance. "A Few Old Memories" by mountain-music stylist Hazel Dickens seemed a logical choice for The Grass Is Blue. 
But Parton's creativity took the band in some unexpected directions as well. "Train Train" comes from the repertoire of the Southern-rock band Blackfoot. She makes Billy Joel's "Travelin' Prayer" sound like it was written for bluegrass instrumentation. Johnny Cash's country classic "I Still Miss Someone" undergoes a similar transformation. Rounding out the collection is the gospel song "I Am Ready" written by Parton's youngest sister Rachel. 
"I sang these songs with such conviction, with love and respect," says Parton. "I was singing from my heart, my soul. That 'high lonesome sound' was such a natural thing for me." 
"I know much is written about getting back to basics, returning to your roots and so on, but everyone involved in this project really believes it is something very special," says producer / guitarist Steve Buckingham. "I have worked with her for nine years, but I have never seen her work like this. It was obvious that she was loving it." 

The Grass Is Blue comes at a time of intense creative renewal for Dolly Parton. In 1998 she retreated to the Great Smokey Mountains in seclusion to awaken her songwriting gift. The result was the rootsy album, Hungry Again. One of its songs, her "Blue Valley Songbird" tale of child abuse was adapted for a cable TV movie this year. 
Her second Trio album with Emmylou Harris and Linda Rondstadt appeared in 1999 and was greeted with rave reviews, substantial video airplay and award nominations. Five of her songs are on the soundtrack of the upcoming feature film Women Talking Dirty and "Jolene" is being remixed as a dance single from it. Her TV gospel musical "Heavens To Betsy" is on tap for production next year. In England, Boy George and Dolly Parton teamed up for a dance single called "Your Kisses Are Charity." 
"I have freedom now. I'm not being played on country radio. I don't have to try and be commercial. I'm not writing to please a disc jockey; I'm not trying to be anybody but myself. I don't have to do anything; and that has given me so much freedom to be creative. I guess I've lived long enough to deserve it. I'm gonna' claim whether I deserve it or not and make the most of it. I'm just loving my life, and doing the best work I've ever done." 
On September 22, 1999, Parton was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame. The creator of such enduring classics as "I Will Always Love You," "Jolene," and "9 to 5" says she does not feel worthy.
"It's like being inducted into Sainthood or something. Little Dolly from the Smokey Mountains in there with Hank Williams and all these people who have done so much? They are like Saints. To think about me going there is just chilling. It's humbling. It is overwhelming and I am very honored." 
"But if you think this means putting me in a rocking chair, you can just forget it. If it does, just put wheels on my rocking chair, cause I am gonna' rock and roll. I'm lucky enough to be still active and I feel like I am just starting my career." 
The fabled career began in Appalachia. Dolly Parton grew up surrounded by fiddles, banjos, mandolins and guitars. She was singing in family country bands before she reached her teens. As a child on Knoxville radio, she shared stages with Jim & Jesse, The Bristol Brothers and other bluegrass bands. 
"We pretty much defined our music as 'mountain music.' I was always around bluegrass music. I especially loved the banjo. An old man that used to live up the road from us showed me how to play. And actually, if I don't have these long fingernails on I can still play in that old 'clawhammer' style." 
Her banjo song "Applejack," long a staple of her live concerts, was inspired by this childhood memory. Parton's first top-10 hit as a solo artist was Bill Monroe's arrangement of "Muleskinner Blues" in 1970. 
"Bill Monroe loved it. He loved girls and he especially liked me because I would flirt with him. He reminded me a lot of my daddy, so I knew how to relate to him. I knew his personality and I knew his ways. Some people were afraid of him, but I wasn't. When I would be on the Opry he'd say, 'I want to bring my girl out here who sung my song. Come on out here and we'll sing it together.' So we'd sing 'Muleskinner Blues' and I'd yodel and he'd give me a verse. It was a thrill to sing it with Bill." 
Since then, her career has always included bluegrass. Her own songs adaptable to the idiom include 1969's "Don't Let It Trouble Your Mind" and "My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy," 1970's "When Possession Gets Too Strong" and 1973's "My Tennessee Mountain Home," as well as 1977's "Applejack." Bluegrass acts like Rhonda Vincent ("Joshua") and Beth & April Stevens ("Tomorrow Is Forever") have often sung Parton's songs. 
In 1987 Dolly Parton scored a major hit with "Those Memories of You," written by The Nashville Bluegrass Band's Alan O'Bryant. Published by Monroe, the song featured her singing lead in the Trio with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. Ricky Skaggs produced Parton's 1989 LP White Limozeen, which included her lilting "Yellow Roses." In 1994 she returned to mountain music with Heartsongs, which included "In The Pines," "Wayfaring Stranger," "Night Train To Memphis" and "I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes," and featured sidemen such as Ronnie McCoury, Jerry Douglas, Carl Jackson and members of Union Station. 
Parton's husband, Carl Dean, is a bluegrass fan who puts this music on the record player at their house. It was Dean who alerted her to the promising young fiddler/singer Alison Krauss. "You ought to try and find her," he said. The two women have been singing together ever since. 
"I've been singing bluegrass music all my life, gospel too. But I've scattered it throughout different albums. I think that The Grass Is Blue is the purest thing I've ever done. It truly is inspired." 

The Grass Is Blue

Here is what Dolly has to say about each track of her new album:

1. "Travelin' Prayer" (Billy Joel)
"This was my idea. I think Billy Joel is one of the greatest writers in the world. To me, 'Travelin' Prayer' is a bluegrass song as soon as you take out the piano. I think I scared Steve Buckingham a little bit when I started sending over all these weird songs to the studio. I guess he was taken aback. But once he got into this, he really loved it. And it did turn out to be one of the best performances on the album." 

2. "Cash On The Barrelhead" (Ira Louvin/Charlie Louvin)
"I have always loved this song and it happens to be one of Carl Dean's all-time favorites, too. He said, 'Boy, too bad you can't sing 'Cash On The Barrelhead,' because it's such a man's song. I thought, 'Well, girls can get picked up for loitering on the street and girls get locked up. There's lots of hookers and strays. I'll just say, 'That'll be cash on the barrelhead, hon,' and that will make it a girl thing.' Anyway, I love The Louvin Brothers' music and this makes me laugh. It's one of my favorites on the album for its 'fun value' and because Carl is so happy with it." 

3. "Steady As the Rain" (Dolly Parton)
"I originally wrote 'Steady As the Rain' for my sister, Stella, who had it out as a single in 1979. But I've always thought of it as a bluegrass thing -- I wrote it on the banjo. Often when I'm writing I'll pick up a mandolin, an autoharp, a banjo or even an electric guitar trying to get different sounds. Anyway, this song just popped into my head when we were starting to do this bluegrass album. It fit right in." 

4. "A Few Old Memories" (Hazel Dickens)
"Patty Loveless was little Patty Ramey when I met her. She and her brother used to come to all the old Porter and Dolly shows. Porter encouraged her a great deal and I remember she wrote these beautiful songs. Even as a little girl, you could tell she was so gifted. I kind of claimed her like a little sister, the same way that I did Rhonda and Darrin Vincent. They became like extensions of my own family because they reminded me of my younger brothers and sisters. I thought Patty would be perfect for this song, so we called her. She was packing to go out of the country, but she made a special effort to come down late on a Friday night because she wanted to sing with me. I was thrilled." 

5. "I'm Gonna Sleep With One Eye Open" (Lester Flatt)
"Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Jim & Jesse are all like buddies. They all kind of took me under their wings when I was a kid. I just think Lester's song is so funny, so country, so corny and so great. I can picture myself doing it on stage. I can picture it as a video. This will be so much fun to do when I do bluegrass shows, which I hope to do." 

6. "Endless Stream Of Tears" (Dolly Parton)
"That's a new song for me. When I did my last album, Hungry Again, it was one of the songs that we recorded that didn't make the final CD. Rhonda and Darrin Vincent had sung on that version. So when I started to do this bluegrass thing, I thought, 'Wow, I've got 'Endless Stream Of Tears' and Rhonda and Darrin already know their parts. So we cut it again." 

7. "I Still Miss Someone" (Johnny R. Cash/Roy Cash Jr.)
"Johnny Cash was the first man I ever saw that made me understand what sex appeal was when I was a young girl. I didn't really understand magnetism or charisma until I saw Johnny Cash at the Grand Ole Opry. When he started to sing, it was just overwhelming to me. It completely stirred me, and you don't ever forget a feeling like that. Then I started following his music and just loved everything he wrote. People forget that he wrote really beautiful love songs like this. Flatt & Scruggs did a version of this years ago that I've always loved." 

8. "Silver Dagger" (public domain, arranged by Dolly Parton)
"This is one that my mother used to sing. I had an instrumental version of it and I sent that to Steve, saying, 'I've got to call Mama and get all the words right.' Steve thought that this was very strange, because it's more like a folk song than a bluegrass song. I kept saying, 'Don't worry; it'll be great.' In the meantime I gathered up all the words from Mama and different aunts and uncles, plus we found a version by Joan Baez, and put it all together. I love old tragic, sad songs. I think it comes from the way I grew up; it's part of mountain music." 

9. "Train, Train" (Shorty Medlocke)
"This was another one where I shocked the fire out of Steve Buckingham. It was on one of Carl's albums by Blackfoot. When I sent it over to Steve I know he thought, 'My Lord, she's lost her mind.' But I knew it would lend itself to bluegrass, and it did. I did have to change the words around to make some of the lines fit me better." 

10. "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight" (Johnny Bond)
"I used to sing this when I was a kid on radio shows in Knoxville. This year I am being honored by being put into the Country Music Hall Of Fame. When we were recording, somebody congratulated me on the Hall Of Fame and asked me who else was going in. I said, 'Well, they're puttin' in Conway Twitty and Johnny Bond.' That conversation ended and Steve Buckingham said, 'Let's get to work. What song do you want to start with?' I said, 'Let's start with something easy on my throat, 'I Wonder Where You Are Tonight.' Steve said, 'Well, how ironic is that? Johnny Bond wrote that song and you just said his name.' I didn't realize that Johnny Bond wrote it when I picked it for this album. I just knew I liked the song. That struck me as so unusual and coincidental. I felt like it was Johnny Bond saying to me, 'Hey, I'm glad to be going into the Hall Of Fame with you; and thank you for singing my song.'" 

11. "Will He Be Waiting For Me" (Dolly Parton) 
"A lot of my songs can be done bluegrass, because of my mountain background. Emmylou Harris has always loved this old song of mine and said she was going to record it. She came by the movie set one day while I was filming The Blue Valley Songbird. I said, 'Oh, I'm doing a bluegrass album and I'm doing your favorite Dolly song on it.' She said, 'Well, that's great.' I wanted to have her sing on it, but she was out of town. Claire Lynch and Keith Little are doing the harmonies." 

12. "The Grass Is Blue" (Dolly Parton) 
"I thought, 'I need to have a title that will tell people this is a bluegrass album.' But I didn't want to call it 'Dolly's Bluegrass Album.' So when I was doing the movie The Blue Valley Songbird we had a 30-minute lunch break. I went to the back of my bus and told them, 'Don't let anybody come back here. If anybody wants me, I'm asleep.' I got out my guitar and these words just started coming. It was just so natural. I got a tape recorder, sang it and sent it over to Steve that very afternoon. It was so perfect. I just love it when God intervenes when I'm needing something really bad. Any gifts I have, I always give God the glory. This time I was so tired that he pretty much wrote it on His own. After we were in the recording session, there were a few lines that I changed right on the spot. They still rhymed, so I figured that was God still writing." 

13. "I Am Ready" (Rachel Parton Dennison) 
"My sister Rachel is one of the most beautiful girls in the world. She is the baby of our family. Mama was sick one time when Rachel was out in L.A. and she missed her terribly. She told me, 'I locked myself in the bathroom in the motel, sat there on the sink and wrote this song about Mama. I came out in 30 minutes, so I know it was inspired.' Every time I'd hear it, it'd make me cry and I'd get chills. I recorded this as a surprise present to Rachel and gave it to her on her 40th birthday." 

Special Thanks: Kim Fowler


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