On This Day: Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris Release ‘Trio’ Album in 1987

by Emily Morgan

On this day, thirty-four years ago, the all-female power group consisting of Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris released their collaborative record, Trio. 

After nearly a decade of trying to release a joint project, the singers finally accomplished the task on March 2, 1987, when the country music powerhouses released the 11-track record. The vocal sisterhood took shape backstage at a Houston venue when Ronstadt opened for Neil Young’s Time Fades Away tour in 1973. It was there that Chris Hillman, the Byrds musician, introduced Ronstadt to a young, fresh-faced singer named Emmylou Harris. 

Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris Hit It Off Over Fellow Female Vocalist

Years later, Harris fondly remembered meeting Ronstadt, noting that they instantly hit it off when they realized they both admired another female musician

“The first thing that girl singers do when they meet is to ask each other, ‘Who’s your favorite girl singer?’ And we both said, ‘Dolly,'” Harris recalled.

During an interview, Ronstadt recalled that the singers had a unique vocal combination when they sang together at Harris’ home.

“We were just hanging out together and Emmy picked up her guitar and we started singing a Carter Family song. That’s what musicians always do. They’ll always start to jam,” she said. “We were shocked by the sound. It surprised all three of us. We immediately said, ‘Well, we have to record.’ That wasn’t even remotely on my mind when I went over there that day.”

Leading up to the release, the longtime friends had tried to record a project together, but their own schedules hindered them from moving forward.

However, they did include several songs from their earlier sessions, including “Mister Sandman” on Harris’ Evangeline album. “I Never Will Marry,” also appeared which Ronstadt featured on her album, Simple Dreams.

After Years Of Attempts, Trio Finally Gets Released

During the late ’80s, they finally found time to record Trio. Released by Warner Bros. Records and produced by George Massenburg, the record quickly climbed to the No. 1 spot on the charts and was eventually certified multi-platinum. 

Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, and Emmylou Harris won two Grammy Awards for their work. It also produced four hit singles, including their remake of the Phil Spector song “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” which became a No. 1 hit.

Later, in 1999, they returned to the recording booth when they released their second album, Trio II. The sophomore project had actually been recorded earlier in 1994 but failed to produce any hit singles. 

In 2016, they returned, and the group released The Complete Trio Collection, which included remastered songs and unheard material.