Dolly Parton Details Story Behind Turning Down Elvis Presley’s Request to Record ‘I Will Always Love You’

by Katie Maloney

During an interview with Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton opens up about turning down Elvis’s request to sing her number one hit song, “I Will Always Love You.”

Dolly stopped by McEntire’s podcast, Living & Learning With Reba McEntire, and shared some of the “tough decisions” she’s made during her career. One of those decisions involved the King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. Dolly explains that Elvis asked to record her song, “I Will Always Love You.”

“I was so excited, I told everybody that Elvis was recording it. They said if I wanted to come to the studio for the session, Elvis wanted to meet me. Anyways, I was so excited he was going to do it,” said Dolly.

However, the night before the recording session, Elvis’s manager called Dolly with new information. Dolly Parton then had to deny Elvis’s request to play the song.

“It didn’t have anything to do with Elvis, I loved Elvis. It was Colonel Tom Parker who was his manager. Who was brilliant, you can’t take that away from him. He did alright by him,” said Dolly.

Parker told Dolly that Elvis wouldn’t record the song unless he could get 50 percent of the royalties.

“The night before the session Tom called me. He said ‘You know we don’t record anything with Elvis unless we have the publishing or at least half the publishing.’ And I said “Well that’s a new light on things because I can’t give you half the publishing. I’m going to leave that to my family,'” said Dolly. “I said ‘I can’t do that.’ And he said ‘Well then we can’t do it,'” said Dolly.

Dolly Parton Shares How To Makes The ‘Tough Decisions’

Dolly Parton said that she cried all night after turning Elvis down. However, Dolly already earned a number one spot on the charts with “I Will Always Love You.” Additionally, according to Dolly, the song was one of her most important copywrites with her publishing company. Regardless of how much she wanted to hear Elvis sing her song, Dolly said that she had to make the right decision for herself.

“You kinda need to know when to stand up for yourself,” said Dolly. “Don’t let even the glorious things like Elvis who was great. I cried over not hearing him sing it. But I still had to make that tough business decision because I knew that would come back to haunt me. I had to choose what was right for me,” said Dolly.

And it turned out to be the best decision possible. Years later Whitney Houston recorded “I Will Always Love You.” And the song became a number one hit song for Parton all over again.

Nevertheless, Parton had a chance to talk with Priscilla, Elvis’s former wife, years after the event.

“Priscilla told me years later, ‘Elvis sang that song to me after I came down the steps after we divorced. So I knew he really loved the song,'” said Dolly.

In conclusion, regardless of whether or not he got to record the song, Elvis remained a loyal Dolly Parton fan.