Dolly Parton Doesn’t Sugarcoat Her ‘Damn-Near’ Marriage to Porter Wagoner

Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner/YouTube
Country Living, Country Music, Country Music News, Dolly Parton, History, News

It’s a rare phenomenon for Dolly Parton to think anything other than an affirming thought for anyone in her luminous blonde aura, much less speak any disparaging words.  The truth is, however, that the unmatched songwriter speaks and writes from her core of truth, much like Loretta Lynn and other great ladies of country music.

“If you always tell the truth, then nobody can make somethin’ up,” Loretta Lynn relates in her PBS documentary, Loretta Lynn: My Life in My Words. In turn, Dolly Parton lives by her understanding of faith to “be a light” and “speak light” into every life she encounters.  Still, Dolly loves to have a little fun spilling the truth, like she playfully does regarding her husband, Carl Dean.  It’s no surprise why Dolly Parton  stays on Jimmy Fallon’s favorite guest list.  The late-night host loves Dolly so much that he was her duet partner on A Holly Dolly Christmas. The pair definitely brightened up 2020’s Yuletide season with friendship and cheer.

Dolly Parton pays tribute to Porter Wagoner to this day for his part in sparking her six-decade career as a country music queen.  Nonetheless, Parton and the Grand Ole Opry favorite and successful syndicated television host shared a complicated creative relationship and day-to-day tensions didn’t vanish in friendly banter, as the Showbiz CheatSheet probes.

The most famous farewell love song from Dolly Parton

Country Music Alley recently profiled the many reasons why Dolly Parton adores her wigs. From her start in 1966 on The Porter Wagoner Show, Parton refuses the cowgirl look.  Instead, she poofed her hair as high as humanly possible, put on some sparkle, and coordinated her wardrobe colors with Wagoner’s.

Dolly Parton planned on parting from Porter Wagoner (contractually) after five years.  The “Green Green Grass of Home” singer never wanted to hear, much less discuss, the matter.  Parton stayed another two years, mostly out of gratitude and respect. Her feelings at the time didn’t fall into the warm and toasty category.

When Porter Wagoner finally heard “I Will Always Love You” as Dolly Parton’s parting gift, he cried, as Parton references in Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. But he also asks to produce the track.  Dolly conceded, and let him produce the original. Despite the courtesy, Wagoner ultimately sued Dolly Parton for $1 million for breach of contract.  “That was money I didn’t have,” she assures.  Looking back, the artist now sees the act as just one of the rocks in her road to her own creative freedom– a cost of doing business.

Dolly Parton also realizes that life on the road has much more in common with real-life marriage than most fans ever see.  In some ways, she reflects, she and Porter Wagoner were closer than legally married.

Revelations on the road cause Dolly Parton to feel ‘damn-near’ married to Porter Wagoner

“We fought like h@ll,” Dolly Parton recalls of her days with Wagoner in her book.  Parton knows well the pitfalls of the music business—“ when you’re with somebody all the time, you love them one day and you want to kill them the next”– as nerves get frayed.

“You do get to know exactly who they are,” Dolly Parton professes on the most valuable lesson on tours and endless travel.  “Those seven years of being with Porter, it was damn-near like being married to him.”  The songwriter stresses that creative relationships can be closer than those with spouses, since “working together and putting in your creative self, putting in every emotion that you have– it all goes into that relationship.”

Dolly’s haven on the farm and her husband’s quiet devotion

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.  Dolly Parton understands the lessons of life in the lessons from her grandpa preacher.  Even though she made payments to Porter “over a long period of time” after her 1973 departure, she was with Wagoner when he died in 2007.  By then, he told Dolly was sorry about the hurtful, legalistic torment between the two.

Farm life is the only life Dolly Parton craves, as she reveals in another CheatSheet feature last week. “I sit under trees to write songs,” Dolly describes.  She elaborates that “I listen to God’s voice through the wind.”  The elements of nature are essential to the “My Tennessee Mountain Home” singer.

Her husband, Carl Dean, fiercely avoids the spotlight and Dolly Parton lovingly protects her husband from public glare.  Country getaways in “our little camper” are favorite treats for the couple who tied the knot almost 55 years ago. They cherish time by “a riverbank somewhere.” The two feast on favorites that “I know we love,” all prepared by Dolly.  “We just do our little things like that,” Dolly Parton insists, showing the spark still grows.

Love, patience and forgiveness are all virtues in work, life, and love.  They are not just words in a song to Dolly Parton.

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