No matter the countless times Dolly Parton recounts her true-life stories of her hardscrabble upbringing with her parents and 11 siblings in Sevier County, Tennessee, fans never tire of learning more. Along the same lines, the story of her courtship with her devoted husband, Carl Dean, remains a constant source of inspiration and curiosity. Carl despises the glare of the spotlight, while his wife courts it and dazzles more brightly from her spirit onstage than any spotlight aimed at her.
In a November 2020 feature, Country Music Alley conveys the deep sense of destiny and abiding faith that Dolly Parton holds in all aspects of life. During the same conversation with Oprah, however, Parton credits personal sacrifices and her innate sense of timing for much of her career success. In her view, having no children enabled her to work and ultimately, allowed “everybody’s kids to be mine” through the lifetime legacy of her global literacy initiative, the Imagination Library, and localized education and health initiatives, including scholarships.
When it comes to the love of her life, though, Dolly Parton never wasted one nanosecond wondering if the man in front of her at Nashville’s Wishy-Washy Laundromat was meant to be hers, as Yahoo News per Today confirms. Carl Dean was her “one” from the word go, and the couple’s love is still going strong after 55 years of real-life better than any country song– except one written by Dolly Parton!
Dolly Parton likes boys long, lean, and dark
Naturally, growing up in a rustic, two-room cabin and frequently sharing the same bed through the frigid Smoky Mountain winters doesn’t leave much to the imagination. In her beloved, charming homespun ballad, “Sugar Hill,” Dolly Parton captures the innocence of youth and young love in the wilds of nature. Dolly asserts the joy of “showing more than we should have shown” without shame or fear, but in celebration of the simple life.
“I had a lot of boys in my life,” Dolly Parton confirms. Then, as now, the unparalleled songwriter and states “I love boys.” Without hesitation, Dolly Parton praises her father, Robert Lee Parton as “the smartest man I ever knew.” Observing his style of striking barters and bargains gave her lifelong training in how to see the bottom line in the boardroom. As destiny turns, another lean and lanky man captured Dolly Parton’s fancy before Carl encounters Dolly near the washateria.
Johnny Cash captures Dolly’s early passion
Not surprisingly, the 13-year-old Dolly Parton became enamored by the thrill of the entire atmosphere of the Grand Ole Opry on her first visit, as the superstar elaborated to late-night host, Seth Meyers, in 2019. The striking figure of Johnny Cash only adds to the impact. “He just had that magnetism,” Parton elaborates of the icon before becoming “the man in black.” She loved the way the “young and skinny” Cash moved around. Only later, Dolly Parton learns that the movement was part of coping with drug withdrawals. Yes, Dolly admits to “crushing hard” as a girl for Johnny Cash. Still, another tall, dark, handsome man in Nashville fulfilled her woman’s dream of love.
What makes Carl Dean so delightfully different
In her book, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, Dolly Parton features the only photograph of her Memorial Day weekend wedding to Carl Dean in 1966. The portrait was taken by her mother, and both Dolly’s mother and father thought the vows came too soon. Likewise, Dolly’s record company advised that the nuptials might create a negative impact on her career. Nonetheless, the lovebirds believed they were ready for the long haul, and the devoted years bear that truth.
Even at the time they met, it was evident to Dolly Parton that Carl Dean was independent, an asphalt-paving business owner who preferred life on his own terms, and not straying into his future wife’s lane. In retort to the scoffers who contend that her husband doesn’t exist, Dolly introduced her groom to the world in the most public manner ever, on the cover of her classic 1969 album, My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy. No one faults Dolly Parton for wanting to show off her shirtless and industrious forever beau.
In her memoir, Dolly Parton expresses what most impressed her about Carl Dean. Consistently, he looked into her eyes and listened to the stories of her life. Unlike the unending tensions in her relationship with Porter Wagoner, “We don’t argue,” Parton, 75, ensures of her time with Carl, 79. The couple masters the delicate balance of being together, while still giving one another space.
Simple pleasures speak to the heart
Speaking of space, Dolly and Carl delight in the open spaces of nature, taking getaways in their “little camper” with home-cooked goodies provided by Dolly Parton. Her treasures are the handwritten poems from her husband on anniversaries, along with hand-picked wildflowers. In turn, sharing a sense of humor makes any day easier.
Destiny intended for Dolly to leave “I Will Always Love You” as her farewell to Porter Wagoner. On the other hand, the song that brings Carl Dean most near to Dolly Parton’s heart is “The Last One to Touch Me.” It’s hard to imagine how anyone hopes for more and the sweetest years still lie ahead.
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