Welcome to Dollywood! Dolly Parton phoned into On Air With Ryan Seacrest on Wednesday, December 4, and revealed her secret to a successful, long marriage. The Heartstrings producer and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter also shared the real story behind her iconic song “Jolene.”
Dolly has been married to husband Carl Thomas Dean since 1966. After discussing if eloping or having a big wedding is statistically better on-air, Ryan Seacrest asked Dolly to chime in, given her successful 53-year-long (!!!) marriage.
“Well, you know what? I did it both ways. My husband and I got married in 1966
in a small wedding just with my mother; she made me a little dress. We went down to Ringgold, Georgia, across the state line [and] got married. I wanted to get married in a church so we just went up to this Baptist church — neither of us grew up Baptist — but, anyway, we just found this church and the guy married us. And, then, on our 50th anniversary, I’d always wanted that big dress and that beautiful gown and I wanted all of that, so we remarried! We reinstated our vows on our 50th anniversary and we got to dress up so beautiful and I got to wear that big, beautiful gown. We just had family and friends here at our house in Nashville so I got to do it both ways so I’d recommend both.”
While her husband has stayed out the spotlight, they’re long-lasting relationship isn’t unknown to fans. So what’s the secret?
“Well, I always joke about it, but there’s some truth in it: Stay gone!” Dolly revealed. “Don’t be in each other’s face all the time. My husband and I, we both have a great sense of humor and we’re both pretty much loners — we don’t think we have to be in each other’s faces all the time and you know, we give each other space. So, we just really have a lot of respect and we just have a lot of fun. I think the laughter has been a big part of it — just enjoying each other and trying to find the things in life to enjoy.”
It’s that same joy and lightheartedness that Dolly’s Netflix series Heartstrings brings viewers. The 8-part series brings to light stories inspired by Dolly’s iconic songs.
“There’s eight of them and hopefully we’re going to continue with it,” Dolly teased of the holiday-perfect series. “They’re little simple, sweet, precious stories that you hardly ever see on TV anymore. … There’s no bells or whistles, no big effects or any of that, just human stories and if you’re human you’re going to enjoy it!”
The first episode tells the tale of “Jolene” which was inspired by Dolly’s own relationship with Carl after he innocently flirted with a bank clerk.
“In my real life, it kind of patterned that, but everybody thought that we would do that and it would be about me and my husband, but I couldn’t do that to him,” Dolly clarified. “It wasn’t that big of a deal to us; it was just kind of based loosely on that thought and that story.”
In actuality, Dolly concluded, the song was named after a young fan she met.
“I met a little girl years ago signing autographs in my early, early days and … I said, ‘Oh, that’s a beautiful name!’ … And so I said, ‘You know, I love that name, if you ever hear a song through the years called ‘Jolene,’ just know that I wrote that about you,’” she recalled. “And I went back to my bus singing ‘Jolene! Jolene!’ … I just kept saying ‘Jolene!’ so that’s how the chorus came about. … It was about a little girl!”
Listen back to the full interview in the audio above and stream Heartstrings on Netflix now! And click HERE to learn all about Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol. Parton's written an all-new Appalachian-inspired score to go along with a new book based on the classic Christmas tale which you can catch this month live in Boston!
Photo credit: Getty Images and DollyParton.com