Dolly Parton is a universally recognizable name in today’s world.
She has been a household name since the ’60s. Whether it’s for her sweet twangy country voice, her motherly personality, or her deeds for America, Dolly Parton goes beyond just “well-known.” Younger generations know her as “Aunt Dolly” from “Hannah Montana,” older generations grew up with her classic hits like “Jolene.”
In fact, there have even been recent calls to have Dolly Parton in statue form on Capitol grounds in Nashville, Tennessee.
Carl Thomas Dean: Mystery Man
While we all know Dolly, her husband is a bit of a mystery.
She has kept her husband, Carl Thomas Dean, hidden from the public eye since they got together all the way back in 1964. The two are one of the most private couples in the business ever. Despite her widespread popularity and success, he has rarely been seen in photographs or interviews with Parton.
Some rather extreme theories think that her romance is really a myth. However, Parton has said time and time again that the spotlight isn’t where her husband wants to be. He runs a local asphalt-paving company in Nashville.
“A lot of people have thought that through the years, because he does not want to be in the spotlight at all. It’s just not who he is. He’s like, a quiet, reserved person and he figured if he ever got out there in that, he’d never get a minute’s peace and he’s right about that,” Parton said to ET.
Dolly Parton even attributes part of their successful romance to being able to have a private relationship. Even on dates, the two manage to find isolated, yet very special, ways to spend time together.
“I’ll cook the stuff that I know we love. And I pack it up in a picnic basket. And then we’ll go find some riverbank somewhere with our little camper, park, have a picnic. Or we’ll pull up to some little Days Inn motel, go in as long as the bed’s clean and there’s a bathroom. We just do our little things like that,” Parton told People.
At the same time, he has been the inspiration for a number of Dolly Parton’s love songs over the years. Even though he himself is into more hard rock, he has always expressed he’s proud of the work she does.
Dolly Parton and Carl Thomas Dean Meet
After Parton graduated from high school she immediately packed a bag and moved out to Nashville to pursue her dream of a career in country music in 1964.
On her first day there she met Dean outside of the Wishy Washy Laundromat. He called her over and the two spoke for the first time.
“I was surprised and delighted that while he talked to me, he looked at my face, a rare thing for me. He seemed to be genuinely interested in finding out who I was and what I was about,” Parton said according to Good Housekeeping.
While Parton’s first impression was very positive, Carl was also blown away for all the right reasons. “My first thought was ‘I’m gonna marry that girl. My second thought was, ‘Lord she’s good lookin.’ And that was the day my life began,” he said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight in 2016.
Parton and Dean Make it Official
The two went on their first date after Dean had been visiting her at her aunt and uncle’s house for weeks. They met his parents and went to the McDonald’s drive-in window for their date.
Then, Dean enlisted in the army for two years. When he got back the two got married on May 30, 1966.
Parton’s record label at the time, Monument, told her that getting married would hinder her music career. She refused to wait. Instead, she had a small wedding with only her mom, the preacher, and his wife.
Staying Out of the Spotlight
At this time, Dolly Parton was slowly building her career as a country artist. She was awarded the songwriting award for “Put It Off Until Tomorrow.” She went to a BMI dinner where her husband went with her. It would be the last major event in the entertainment business where he escorted her.
“We got out and walked up the red carpet and went inside and sat through dinner and the awards. After the dinner, Carl turned to me and said, ‘Dolly, I want you to have everything you want, and I’m happy for you, but don’t you ever ask me to go to another one of them dang things again!'” Carl Dean said.
False Cheating Rumours
Since Dean had managed to stay out of the entertainment business’s wavering eye, rumors have always closely followed the couple. One of which was that he cheated on her.
This false rumor was running heavily in 1973 when she released one of her most popular hits, “Jolene.” The song appears to be about a woman who takes someone else’s man just because she can.
Parton, however, told The Independent that the song is not about her life at all. The song is just based on the name itself. A little girl came up to her at a show and told her that her name was Jolene. She became enamored with it and vowed she would make a song out of it.
In 2012, she dedicated her song “From Here to the Moon and Back” to her husband. The song was in the musical film titled “Joyful Noise.”
Then in 2016, the two renewed their vows in an intimate ceremony at their home in Nashville. She never really got a big dream wedding in the ’60s and wanted to create a new special memory.
“I got all dressed up in the most beautiful gown you’ve ever seen and dressed that husband of mine up. He looked like a handsome dude out of Hollywood. We had a few family and friends around. We didn’t plan anything big at all because we didn’t want any kind of strain, any kind of tension, any kind of commotion, so we planned it cleverly and carefully … just had a simple little ceremony at our chapel at our place,” she told Rolling Stone.
The two decided to not have children. However, family is still a very important part of their life. The two have several nieces. Parton has also always been close to Billy Ray Cyrus. In fact, her goddaughter is Miley Cyrus, with who she also spends a lot of time with.
In all reality, Dolly Parton is a mother figure to a lot of kids out there. Through her organization, Imagination Library, she works to get books to kids who need them. During COVID-19 she even read books to kids to give their parents a break.
“Now that I’m older, I realize I didn’t have kids of my own, so everybody’s kids could be mine. I [want to] empower children and give them confidence,” Parton said.