WATCH: The True Story Behind Dolly Parton’s Hit, “Jolene”
That red head isn’t exactly who you think.
In a recent interview with CBS Sunday morning, Dolly Parton shared just what motivated one of her most beloved songs—and there’s more to the story than you might think.
Country music’s favorite Queen gave CBS reporter Tony Dokoupil that the idea for one of her biggest songs sparked from one tiny fan.
In her early years in Nashville, Parton was performing on the Porter Wagoner show and following a performance one night she had a chance encounter with a young fan.
“And I remember this little red-headed girl, green eyes, prettiest little thing and I said, ‘well what’s your name?’ And she said ‘Jolene.’ And I said, ‘well I love that name.’ All the way back to the bus I’m going Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, so I wouldn’t forget the name,” Parton told Dokoupil. And ask she recounts the story, she sings the name Jolene in that now instantly recognizable tune.
She took this name she loved and gave it to a character based on another red-head, a bank teller who once flirted with Parton’s husband, Carl Dean.
“Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green
Your smile is like a breath of spring
Your voice is soft like summer rain
And I cannot compete with you, Jolene”
The result? “Jolene” was the hit song that launched Parton’s solo career. And of course, that flirtatious bank-teller didn’t have an impact on Dolly and Carl’s marriage as they are still going strong, for over 50 years and counting.
Parton has woven her way into our hearts not just for her music but for her philanthropic efforts with the Imagination Library, and also, her ability to stay grounded and keep it real. She’s always been in on the joke, even if it is at her expense. She had a little fun with Dokoupil, providing some great one liner responses to questions she gets all the time.
Parton was honored at this year’s Grammy Awards as the Grammy’s 2019 Music Cares Person of the Year and was honored by several stars in special performances all weekend. But don’t take this lifetime achievement style award as a sign that the Smoky Mountain Songstress is slowing down. Nope, not one bit. We are thrilled about this and cannot wait for the long-awaited sequel to 9 to 5!