Many fans and critics call Dolly Parton the Queen of Country music. However, she doesn’t like having the title thrust upon her. Like the proposed bronze statue at Tennessee’s capitol building, Dolly doesn’t believe that she’s earned it.
Today, you don’t have to be a country music fan to admire Dolly. Her generosity, humor, humility, and abundance of Southern charm have elevated her to icon status. She took a major step forward on the path to becoming that icon on this day 54 years ago.
Dolly Parton properly introduced herself to the charts with the aptly-titled Hello, I’m Dolly. The album hit shelves less than two weeks after Parton became a regular on The Porter Wagoner Show. Her debut release peaked at number 11 on Billboard’s Hot Country Albums chart. Additionally, the album produced three singles.
Dolly Parton released “The Little Things,” “Dumb Blonde,” and “Something Fishy,” as singles. The first failed to chart. However, the others landed in the top 40 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart. “Dumb Blonde,” landed at number 24 and “Something Fishy,” broke into the top 20 at number 17.
Interestingly, “The Little Things,” was a poppy track. The others were pure country. If you listen to the songs together, you can immediately hear a stark difference.
For instance, “The Little Things,” features piano and guitar that both sound like just about every other pop song from the era. At the same time, Dolly’s voice sounds restrained.
It’s as if she is trying to keep her Appalachian accent in check. On the other hand, “Dumb Blonde,” opens with a steel guitar. Additionally, Parton’s voice is full, ringing, and steeped in the accent of her home.
In short, Dolly Parton could be herself while singing country music.
Dolly Parton Fought to Be a Country Singer
The results of those three singles proved that Dolly Parton knew what was best for her career. It just so happened that pursuing success also meant following her dream.
Dolly Parton signed to Monument Records in the early sixties. There, label head Fred Foster pushed her to be a pop singer. Going against her dream, Dolly released several pop singles that barely managed to chart. Then, she penned and sang harmony on Bill Phillips’ cut of “Put It Off Until Tomorrow.” That caused Foster to see the light.
A few years later, Dolly Parton crossed over into the pop world and found a new level of stardom. However, she did so on her own terms. No one was telling Dolly what to do. She knew that the pop market was larger and more profitable. She wanted to bring in more money while reaching as many people with her music as possible. To her, it was an opportunity just begging to be taken. So, she obliged.
Decades later, Dolly Parton is still uniquely and unapologetically herself. We wouldn’t want her any other way.