Country Throwback: Listen to 13-Year-Old Dolly Parton’s First-Ever Recording ‘Puppy Love’

by Josh Lanier

Dolly Parton famously grew up in a tiny cabin in rural Tennessee with her brothers and sisters, but it’s clear even in recordings of her as a child that she would outgrow her situation.

One of those early examples is Puppy Love. It’s a short, cute B-side about the fickle nature of young love released in 1959 when she was only 13 years old. Parton actually wrote the song when she was 11 with her uncle Bill Owens. But it’s easy to tell this tiny little girl has got a big voice and a giant talent.

And her to-the-point, playful songwriting is there even in a song she wrote before she was a teenager. There are only two short verses, but they’re cute and fun and hint at a mind built for this kind of writing.

“Pullin’ my pigtails makes me mad / When you kiss me, makes me glad / You turn to leave and make me sad / Still you’re the sweetest sweetheart I’ve ever had.” and “Sometimes you won’t even carry my books / The next time you’ll see me you’ll rag on my looks / You’re meaner to me than a mean ole crook / And I must confess I’m really hooked.”

Parton remembers taking a 30-hour bus ride with her grandmother Rena Owens and her uncle to Lake Charles, Louisiana, to record the for Eddie Shuler, founder of Goldband Records.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget the way the inside of that bus smelled. It was a combination of diesel fuel, Naugahyde, and people who were going places,” she said on her website.

Carrie Underwood: Dolly Parton ‘Made The World Better’

And even as Parton is entering her seventh decade as a professional performer, she is still surprising fans.

Those fans include most of country music’s upper echelon of talent. Dolly Parton has more awards than practically any other country music star, but that’s only part of her oeuvre. She’s starred in hit movies and television shows, popular Christmas specials, and has created charities that have given back millions of dollars and created opportunities for people who grew up poor as she did.

Carrie Underwood is one of those fans. She recently took part in a BMI celebration of Parton’s life. She got emotional when discussing Parton’s charity work.

“Obviously music is part of her legacy. But, I think her true legacy is how she has made the world better,” Underwood said. “She could’ve just been Dolly Parton and taken her money and just lived for herself. But she was given gifts by God, and she takes them, she does the work, she uses them to glorify God, and she gives back. She cares about people. That’s her true legacy.”