HomeEntertainmentMusicCountry MusicOn This Day: Dolly Parton Leaves ‘The Porter Wagoner Show’ to Begin Her Solo Career in 1974

On This Day: Dolly Parton Leaves ‘The Porter Wagoner Show’ to Begin Her Solo Career in 1974

by Clayton Edwards
Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner circa 1967
(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

No one can deny that Dolly Parton is an icon. Today, her elevated status goes far beyond country music. In fact, folks who don’t care for the genre in general or her music in particular love Dolly. Throughout her decades-long solo career, Parton has produced some of the most timeless and memorable tunes in the country songbook. Having those massive hits allowed her to be generous with her money. More importantly, she has gone on to influence and inspire countless artists.

Try Paramount+ FREE for a week. Subscribe here to watch your favorite shows.

None of that would be true if Dolly wouldn’t have struck out on her own early in her career. So, today marks the 49th anniversary of one of the most important days in country music history. At the very least, it is one of the most momentous days in Dolly Parton’s career.

On this day in 1974, Dolly Parton left The Porter Wagoner Show to start her solo career.

Dolly Parton Joins The Porter Wagoner Show

Parton made her debut on The Porter Wagoner Show in September of 1967, around the same time she released her debut album, Hello, I’m Dolly. She replaced the previous female performer on the show, Norma Jean. It was a tough transition for the audience. However, before long they fell in love with the Appalachian-born singer-songwriter.

Her time on the show led Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner to record several duet albums. Additionally, Dolly was starting to release her solo work to a wider audience. Her first single “Just Because I’m a Woman” dropped in 1968. However, she hadn’t found chart success yet. Deep down, Parton knew she needed to break away from The Wagon Master to follow her own path. Wagoner, on the other hand, disagreed.

A Not-So-Swift Departure

Dolly Parton took part in Ken Burns’ Country Music documentary. In a clip provided to People, Dolly discussed the end of her time on The Porter Wagoner Show. “When I was trying to leave the show, I had told Porter that I’d stay five years. It had been five, and it was six, and it was seven,” she explained.

“He was just having a real hard time because it was gonna mess up his show,” Dolly continued. “We were very bound and tied together in so many emotional ways. And he just would not hear it.”

No matter what she said, Wagoner fought to keep her on the show. Finally, Dolly Parton famously sat down to compose a song to convince Porter to let her go. That song was, famously, “I Will Always Love You.”

“I thought, ‘Do what you do best, just write a song.’ So I wrote the song, took it back in the next day. I said, ‘Porter sit down, I got something I have to sing to you.’ I sang it. And he was sitting at his desk and he was crying,” Dolly recalled. Wagoner then told her, “It’s the best thing you ever wrote. Okay, you can go, but only if I can produce that record.”

“I Will Always Love You” went on to be Dolly Parton’s biggest hit. Later, Whitney Houston recorded it for the soundtrack of The Bodyguard and made it the best-selling song by a female artist. In the end, the song became a symbol of Dolly’s beginnings as a solo artist as well as the best-selling song she ever released.