On This Day: Dolly Parton Becomes Grand Ole Opry Member in 1969

by Jacklyn Krol

The Queen of Country Dolly Parton became a Grand Ole Opry member on this day in 1969.

Dolly Parton’s Beginnings and Induction

On Monday (January 4), she celebrates her 51st anniversary of being inducted into the historic society. It’s sixty-one years since her Opry debut as a child. Her uncle, Bill Owens, was a guest on the show. Johnny Cash introduced Parton to the stage. “We’ve got a little girl here from up in East Tennesse,” he said, per The Boot. “Her daddy’s listening to the radio at home, and she’s gonna be in real trouble if she doesn’t sing tonight, so let’s bring her out here.”

Parton performed “You Gotta Be My Baby” by George Jones and received three encores. “As I heard the band play my introduction, I lifted my head and looked up toward the lights,” Parton said. “I smiled at the people in the balcony and then let ‘er rip.”

What Dolly Parton Had to Say

The Opry is a sacred place for Parton. “It was always my dream to be on the Opry,” Parton told Opry.com. “They call it the ‘Mother Church,’ because the old Ryman was a church, but it’s sacred to me, wherever it goes — the church of my heart. For me, the Opry is like the song ‘New York, New York’ — if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”

During her 50th anniversary, Parton said that it’s really sixty for her. “A lot of people think this is my 50th year at the Grand Ole Opry. It’s actually been 60, because the first time I got to sing on the Opry, I was 13 years old,” Parton told Variety. “But then the night that I became a member after I was working with ‘The Porter Wagoner Show’ — and got to actually be a member 50 years ago this year — was one of the highlights of my whole life because it was a true dream of mine.”

Her Fiftieth Anniversary

To celebrate the big 5-0, the Opry celebrated Parton for an entire week with the help of some famous faces. Firstly, she performed two sold-out shows to commemorate her anniversary. The Opry House hosted an exclusive museum that featured artifacts, “Dolly: My Opry Memories.” Backstage was transformed into Parton paradise with a giant portrait, larger than life autograph, among other details. The Opry’s icon radio station transformed into “Dolly Radio” for an entire week.

Finally, Parton received her very own NBC televised special, “Dolly Parton: 50 Years at the Grand Ole Opry.” The special featured tributes from Dierks Bentley, Emmylou Harris, Chris Janson, Toby Keith, Lady Antebellum, Margo Price, Hank Williams Jr., among others.