Kenny Malone, Drummer for Dolly Parton, Dead at 83

by Michael Freeman

Kenny Malone, a notable drummer and session player for stars like Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, and more, has unfortunately passed away. 83 years old, Malone’s former bandmate and friend, Dave Pomeroy, announced Malone died Thursday after contracting COVID-19.

Malone receives credit for his contributions to albums like Haggard’s “Dreaming My Dreams” and Parton’s “Jolene.” Additionally, he assisted other artists like Dobie Gray, Ronnie Milsap, and Crystal Gayle.

Pomeroy released a statement on his friend’s passing.

“He expanded the vocabulary of Nashville drumming, and was always an innovator who invented his own unique style of hand drumming, often combining sticks and brushes with hand percussion to create a unique sound and feel that left lots of space for other instruments and the vocals.”

Coming from Denver, Malone enlisted in the Navy for 14 years and played in the U.S. Navy Band. Returning to Nashville in 1970, he worked with “Cowboy” Jack Clement, a famed Nashville producer. This led to him becoming one of the most notable percussionists and drummers in the area.

His music contributions are as notable as they are extensive. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum says he collaborated on records by Don Williams, Dottie West, Kenny Rogers, Charley Pride, Johnny Cash, Bobby Bare, and Garth Brooks, to name a few.

Recent Dolly Parton Collaborations

Kenny Malone was one of many who were lucky enough to collaborate with Dolly Parton. He’s part of an exclusive and prestigious list. In that same vein, another legend is also collaborating with Parton on a duet in Reba McEntire.

Releasing a box set titled “Revived Remixed Revisited,” McEntire recorded new versions of each of her classic hits. Notably, the “Remixed” part of the album features collaborations, such as duets. One of these duets is a new rendition of “Does He Love You” with Parton.

Parton notes she’s always wanted to work with McEntire and was surprised they never had worked together until now.

“We did a new version of it. It turned out really good because I’ve always wanted to sing with her and don’t know why we never did it until now. But we really sounded good together. I think the fans are going to like it.”

Parton also recently teamed up with Sam Williams, Hank Williams’ grandson, for a duet. Named “Happy All the Time,” the song is meant to celebrate Hank’s new album, “Glasshouse Children.” Zane Lowe of the “Apple Music 1” podcast interviewed Williams, who was ecstatic about working with Parton.

“She has one of my favorite voices of all time and she can do so much with it and it’s just as strong now as it’s ever been. I had the song done about two years ago, so I was only 21 years old, and to have someone of her stature to forehead stamp me like that, I just couldn’t believe it.”

Proud of becoming a country music legend, Parton still strives to improve and seems to with every performance.