Watch: Dolly Parton Reveals She Gave Emmylou Harris One of Her #1 Hit Singles

by Jon D. B.

In her latest wonderful interview on The Late Show, Dolly Parton divulges details on the one song Porter Wagoner wishes she’d never given away – and it went to Emmylou Harris.

Dolly is always a welcome addition to headlines. While promoting her brand new Christmas album, A Holly Dolly Christmas, the legendary country songwriter digs deep into her past. This is, in large part, credit to Late Show host Stephen Colbert, who fires off with several thoughtful questions for Parton.

His most revealing, however, comes when he asks Dolly how she got her start as a songwriter.

“Was it Emmylou Harris that was the first time someone else recorded a song of yours?” the Late Show host asks.

“Well actually, there’s a story about that!” Dolly Parton recalls. “Emmylou Harris had a number one song I wrote called To Daddy. And it was back during the time I was workin’ with the Porter Wagoner Show.”

Colbert lights up, letting Dolly know that he was an audience member growing up for the Porter Wagoner show.

History Behind Emmylou Harris’ #1 Hit, To Daddy

“I had recorded a whole album,” Dolly recalls in the interview. “And we were thinkin’ about putting To Daddy out as a single, for me.” Parton, of course, has a smile on her face the entire time she lets details fly.

“And so Emmylou came to the studio. Porter wanted her to come down and listen to what we were doin’. And so she turned to me and said ‘Oh Dolly you have to let me record To Daddy – because I’m needing a really good song.”

“Can I have that one?” Dolly says Harris asks her.

“Well I think we’re going to be putting that one out as a single!” Dolly laughs. She clarifies that her then entertainment manager, Porter Wagoner, was not happy. “Yeah, We are!” she says Porter interjected. Parton notes that Porter was a dear close friend. As a result of their friendship, Porter was responsible for her first big break through his popular show.

But Emmylou Harris was insisten. “And she replies ‘Oh please let me have the song!” Parton chuckles.

“And so I gave her the song. Porter got so mad at me,” she laughs. “That’s one of the biggest fights we ever had.”

More of Dolly’s wonderful commentary on her past is available to watch on Youtube. In the same interview, Parton reveals her three favorite songs she’s ever written – and it’s a delight.

As for Harris, however, the song changed her life.

Watch Emmylou Harris Sing “To Daddy”, Thanks to Dolly Parton

Through Dolly’s trademark kindness, Harris scored her first #1 hit single. To Daddy became a country staple, and it changed both their music careers for the better.

“But that’s when I really knew – for sure – that I was sincere as a songwriter,” Dolly recalls. “And that it meant more to me to have someone sing a song that I had written, than it was for me to have a record out with that song. Or any song!”

In a previous interview, Parton notes that To Daddy describes the pain her mother went through. Mamma Parton would ignore her husband’s occasional affairs, and his lack of affection. For Parton, it relates to how her mother stood by him, regardless of his behavior.

The lyrics are especially powerful knowing this, and are included below Harris’ original performance below.

To Daddy, Emmylou Harris (1977)

Performed by Emmylou Harris, Lyrics by Dolly Parton

Mama never seemed to miss the finer things of life
If she did, she never did say so to daddy
She never wanted to be more than a mother and a wife
If she did, she never did say so to daddy
The only thing that seemed to be important in her life
Was to make our house a home and make us happy
Mama never wanted any more than what she had
If she did, she never did say so to daddyHe often left her all alone, but she didn’t mind the staying home
If she did, she never did say so to daddy
And she never missed the flowers and the cards he never sent her
If she did, she never did say so to daddy
Being took for granted was a thing that she accepted
And she didn’t need those things to make her happy
And she didn’t seem to notice that he didn’t kiss and hold her
If she did, she never did say so to daddyOne morning we awoke
Just to find a note
That mama carefully wrote and left to daddy
And as we began to read it
Our ears could not believe it
The words that she had written there to daddyShe said the kids are older now
They don’t need me very much
And I’ve gone in search for love I need so badly
I have needed you so long but I just can’t keep holding on
She never meant to come back home
If she did, she never did say so to daddy
Goodbye to daddy

[H/T The Late Show]