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Trivia / Dolly Parton

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  • Breakthrough Hit: Dolly recorded her first song in 1959, called "Puppy Love," which was a regional semi-hit. In 1964, the pretty 18-year-old woman from Siever County, Tennessee, signed with Monument Records; with Ray Stevens doing some of the production work, she recorded a cover of The Tune Weavers' "Happy Happy Birthday Baby," which in the fall of 1965 became her first national hit, peaking at No. 108 on the Billboard Hot 100.note  Four other singles followed in 1966: "Busy Signal," "Don't Drop Out" and "The Little Things," before – with Fred Foster now at the helm – her first really big single: "Dumb Blonde," which had her on the country chart for the first time, reaching No. 24. At the end of 1966, she began appearing on "The Porter Wagoner Show," her first episodes airing in early 1967. Dolly's stock only began to grow ... and grow ... and grow. First, it was a series of duets, their breakthrough being their first national hit together: "The Last Thing On My Mind" in late 1967, with 18 more top 20 hits (most of them top 10) together through 1981. As for solo Dolly, she had several songs on the fringes of success until she blasted through the top 10 in the fall of 1970 with an old Jimmie Rodgers yodeling classic that added both a modern spin and her down-home persona: "Muleskinner Blues (Blue Yodel No. 8)." The breakthroughs weren't done yet: By the mid-1970s, she broke out of Porter Wagoner's shadow and – on the heels of her own TV show (another breakthrough, on a solo basis) – then signaled another breakthrough ahead with her 1977 hit "Light Of a Clear Blue Morning." And then her big pop breakthrough late that same year: "Here You Come Again." There was then actress Dolly, with her legendary role in "9 to 5," and a breakthrough pairing with Kenny Rogers on "Islands In the Stream." And on the breakthroughs have come for a career that may never be seen again.
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  • Chart Displacement: "Coat of Many Colors" only got to #4 on the Country chart. "I Will Always Love You" and "Jolene" also have surprisingly low Hot 100 peaks despite being among her most popular, though "Jolene" (and the first version of "I Will Always Love You") was released a few years before she actively started courting a mainstream Pop audience.
  • Contractual Obligation Project: Porter & Dolly, the 1980 "reunion album" for Parton and Porter Wagoner, was released to help Dolly fulfill her legal obligations after Wagoner sued her for breach of contract and she settled out of court. The songs were all old unreleased duets, some of which had sat on the shelf for over a decade, sweetened with some newly-recorded musical overdubs. Oddly, the album's oldest song, 1968's "Making Plans", became a big hit, peaking at #2 on the Country chart.
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  • Depending on the Writer: The origin of "Jolene" has varied in several respects over the years. All stories have agreed on the key detail: A young, red-headed, green-eyed girl named Jolene came on stage during a Parton concert to meet her favorite singer. The details then start to diverge: One suggests she asked Parton for an autograph (to which of course Dolly obliged) and then told her name, while another story told that Jolene gave Parton a photo to forward to singer Porter Wagoner, with the girl having written on her photo "Love, Jolene." Whatever the actual events were, Parton was so moved by the little girl that a song was written ... and it became a country music classic.
  • Referenced by...: "Jolene" has at least three besides an Answer Song: a 2008 movie named "Jolene" starring Jessica Chastain, based on a short story by E.L. Doctorow that was inspired by the song.
    • Elemental Masters: the 2021 installment of the series (set in 1890's Tennessee) is named Jolene; based on the Russian folk tale The Queen of the Copper Mountain, author Mercedes Lackey took full advantage of the fact that Jolene's description exactly matches that of the Queen note . The climax of the book is nearly a full-blown fictionalization of the song.
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  • What Could Have Been: Peter Gabriel intended for the female vocal in his song, "Don't Give Up," from the album So, to be sung by Parton but she declined, so Kate Bush was chosen instead.


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