Dolly Parton shares moving memories of Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, more favorite moments
Dolly Parton will make new memories Oct. 12 at the Grand Ole Opry as she celebrates 50 years as a member with two sentimental (sold-out) shows.
Parton made her Grand Ole Opry debut when she was 13 years old alongside her uncle Billy Owens. Jimmy C. Newman gave up one of his weekly Saturday night spots so Parton could sing. Johnny Cash introduced her, and the teenager received three encores.
Six decades later, Parton shared her Top 5 favorite Opry memories with The Tennessean, which is part of the USA TODAY Network.
“Becoming a memory of the Grand Ole Opry would be the highlight of everything.”
2. Dressing room sorority
“I have memories of being back there as a young girl and those dressing rooms were too small for three women, much less 10 or 12. The Jan Howards, the Jeannie Seelys, the Kitty Wells, all those women, all the different ones through the years, Dottie West. Everyone was crammed in there, and you’d hear some of them gossiping in the corner, and everybody would be fighting over their one little spot to get their lipstick on. I just remember feeling like I was part of the girl club, being in there with them. I was thinking, ‘This is history.’ And I felt like I was part of something big and special and important.”
3. Standing in the wings with Patsy Cline
“I remember standing in the wings watching all these incredible artists, people with big names, the biggest people. You know, from Hank Snow, Webb Pierce, you see I go back. All the way back. I remember seeing Patsy Cline. I was young, and it was after she had had a car wreck and she’d gotten scarred up. And I remember as a child thinking there was this really big deep scar between her eyebrows. I remember seeing her before she had that, and I remember thinking about how awful that was that she got her pretty face scarred up like that. It didn’t hurt her singing any. But I just felt sorry and sad just thinking about her nearly getting killed in a wreck and how she wound up dying anyway. I just remember looking at her and seeing that and then her walking to the microphone and her starting to sing and then nothing else registered besides her God-given voice.”
4. Shaken and stirred by Johnny Cash
“One of my favorite memories is when I was in the audience and I saw Johnny Cash on stage. He was young and on drugs, but he had this great charisma and sex appeal, and that was the first time I ever got stirred by a grown person … in a way that I didn’t understand. I was just a young girl. It affected me and the way he moved and all that.
“Years later, I laughed about that because he was just doped up the way he was moving, all that charisma and stuff, moving his shoulders and wiggling around. It was sexy to me. I guess it could have been withdrawals. He was my first grown crush, on a grown man, that I understood what sex appeal was and getting stirred and all those feelings as a young girl. I’d kissed and had little sweethearts, but I had never been moved like that.
“I told him that. I told June, too. We always laughed about it. Seeing him on that stage that night, it paralyzed me. I still see that to this day, just us talking about it. I see that as plain as I was sitting there looking at him. That’s how big an impression it made on me.”
5. Special times with Porter Wagoner
I have fond memories of working with Porter and the Wagonmasters. That was very, very special, too. I wouldn’t have been a member of the Opry that early if it hadn’t been for Porter and being part of the show and him pulling strings. It was special times.