- 19 Jan 22
Happy 76th Birthday, Dolly Parton! To celebrate, we're revisiting Edwin McFee's classic interview with the legendary singer-songwriter – originally published in Hot Press in 2014.
Just before Dolly Parton wrapped up her hugely-successful world tour, Edwin McFee donned his best cowboy hat and met the music icon to talk town tramps, doggie adoptions, dance albums, miming and lots more...
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A little over a month ago, country legend Dolly Parton performed at the world-famous Glastonbury festival. On stage for around 60 minutes, her career-spanning set charmed critics and drew the biggest crowd of the weekend. In fact, according to those who speculate on such things, the songwriter attracted the largest audience ever at the bash, beating the attendances of bands a quarter her age.
When Hot Press catches up with the songwriter, the self-proclaimed “Backwoods Barbie” is still on a high from her experience at Worthy Farm...
“I really enjoyed Glastonbury,” she beams. “There was a sea of people. It didn’t scare me at all. I’ve worked in front of a lot of people before. There could be 10,000 or 100,000. I love them the same. I was shocked and surprised at the positive press. It makes me feel real good that I was accepted so well.”
Armed with an acoustic guitar, a mini saxophone on which she played the theme from The Benny Hill Show (it’s probably best not to ask...) and with an accomplished backing band in support, her performance of evergreen anthems such as ‘Jolene’ and ‘9 To 5’ was note perfect. Perhaps a little too note perfect for some. Post-gig Dolly became embroiled in something of a storm in double-d cup, as social media exploded with claims she was miming. Rather than engage her knockers (Pardon? – Sub Ed), Ms. Parton prefers to take the higher ground and ignore the nay-sayers.
“You know what? Every time I go on tour I hear I’m lip-syncing," she says dismissively. "They say that about every artist at one point or another. I’m not getting into that. I’m glad people are coming to see me. You know, I’m just Dolly and I’m singing and somebody’s always gotta have something negative to say. I roll with the punches.”
Dolly also made the headlines when she announced her intention to adopt a pooch abandoned at the festival and subsequently nicknamed “Doggie Parton” by the press. Has she managed to meet up with her furry friend yet?
“We got a call that the true owners did come forward," she explains. "They had reported the dog missing. There was a language barrier. I think they were from another country or something. Anyway, they got the dog back and everybody feels good about it. I was gonna rename her ‘Glassie’ because of Glastonbury. I was gonna say, ‘Glassie come home!’ [Laughs]. I would’ve called her Glassie Doggie Parton. I feel kinda sad because I was looking forward to taking her home. But I’m glad they have her and they feel good about it.”
Ms P is promoting her latest record Blue Smoke – The Best Of Dolly Parton – and by all accounts she’s enjoying her travels. Eschewing hotels in favour of buses, she tells us she much prefers life on the open road.
“I love living on a bus as opposed to hotels," she confirms, "so we have two buses running all the time on these tours. If we have to fly from point A to point B, the buses are almost identical and are stocked exactly the same way. They give me a feeling of being at home. I can scatter all my stuff and I don’t have to carry luggage in and out of hotels. I guess I’m just a gypsy – and this is my caravan!”
But doesn’t the endless travel get a little gruelling? Especially as none of us – not even the eternally fresh-faced Dolly – are getting any younger?
“I don’t think the years matter so much when you’re busy. Of course you get older. You notice little things as the years go by. That doesn’t mean you have to stop. I have good doctors and make-up artists. I’ll do whatever it takes to make myself look better – and feel better.”
One of Dolly’s most famous sayings is that her iconic look was inspired by “the town tramp.” Has she ever told her childhood role model her trailblazing style choices helped the Smoky Mountain-born songstress make her fortune?
“Absolutely not,” she laughs. “I know her name. I would never, ever use it in public because I don’t know if her folks knew she was the town tramp. I don’t know if she knew she was the town tramp, either! “I love anything that glitters and shines,” she continues. “I love a lot of colour, I love close-fitting clothes. I always buy my clothes two sizes too small, then get them taken in! They always say less is more: that’s the biggest crock I ever heard. More is more. Less is less and I want more!”
As our time with Dolly draws to a close, talk turns to her future and the hard-working performer, who has shifted over 100 million records, reveals she has plenty of plans in the pipeline.
“Well, we’re just wrapping up this world tour right now,” she concludes. “After that, I’m doing my life story as a musical and as a movie too. I may possibly do some television and maybe producing. I don’t plan on doing any more touring in the near future. At some point I would like to do a dance record. I have several songs that are aimed towards the gay community. I’ve got a song called ‘Just A Wee Bit Gay’. It’s a great little dance tune. I like to write a lot of songs for people that are different and who want to be allowed be themselves.”
For whom there is no better role model than Dolly Parton herself...