One of Dolly Parton’s hit songs was almost recorded and sung by The King himself, Elvis Presley. But one key factor stopped the dynamic duo from making music history.
The song in question is “I Will Always Love You,” which became an absolute sensation after it was released in 1974. Elvis Presley loved the Dolly Parton song so much that he sang it to his ex-wife, Priscilla, after they finalized their divorce and were leaving the courthouse, per Express.
Parton remembers when she first heard that story. “Priscilla, Elvis’s wife, told me that when she and Elvis divorced, Elvis sang my song to her. That touched me so deeply.”
The country music queen opened up about her experience with Presley and “I Will Always Love You” on Living and Learning with Reba McEntire back in 2020. Apparently, she considered partnering up with The King to have him release a version of the song. But Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Parker, unknowingly hit the brakes on the project with Dolly Parton.
“I’d been invited down to the studio to meet Elvis and be there when he sang my song,” Parton explained. “That’s the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. Who doesn’t love Elvis?”
She continued, “Colonel called me the afternoon before the session and said ‘You do know we have at least half the publishing on any song that Elvis records?’ And I said ‘No, I did not know that.’ He said, ‘Well it’s just a rule’. So I said ‘Well it’s not my rule.'”
Dolly Parton rose to the top of the country and music charts by being a savvy businesswoman as well as an incredible singer. She knew a bad deal when saw one.
Dolly Parton Explains Why She Couldn’t Let Elvis Presley Sing ‘I Will Always Love You’
“And I cried all night long, ‘cause I was so disappointed,” Dolly Parton continued. “It wasn’t Elvis, I loved Elvis. And I’m sure he was as disappointed as I was because he had it worked up and ready to go – I know he loved that song.”
Dolly Parton still thinks about Elvis Presley’s disappointment to this day. Per Express, she wishes she could tell The King, “Hey, I bet you were as disappointed as I was about all that and I still dream about you singing that song.”
But Parton knows why she stuck to her guns back then. If she had caved and let Presley’s recording label take half the rights to her hit song, it never would’ve exploded again in 1992. Whitney Houston performed a version of “I Will Always Love You” for the film “The Bodyguard,” where it broke all kinds of records. It spent 14 weeks at the top of the U.S. charts. And to this day, it remains the fifth best=selling single of all time. The top one by a female recording artist to boot.
“I wanted to hear Elvis sing it, and it broke my heart – I cried all night,” Dolly Parton repeated. “But I had to keep that copyright in my pocket. You have to take care of your business! Everybody’s going to use you if they can. These are my songs – they’re like my children. And I expect them to support me when I’m old!”
She added, “It didn’t have anything to do with Elvis. I loved Elvis. But, I already had a No. 1 song, I Will Always Love You. That was the most important copyright I had in my publishing company.”
While it would’ve been phenomenal to hear Presley’s version of the song, we have to respect how much Parton’s decision has impacted her future in the industry.