Video: Dolly Parton Explains How She Used Fingernails as an Instrument in ‘9 to 5’ Recording

by Thad Mitchell
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Legendary country music star Dolly Parton recently shared the back story of one of her most famous songs. Parton shared the creation, and interesting musical tactics, of her tune “9 to 5.”

Speaking with television personality Willie Geist about being on the set of “9 to 5” and trying to come up with a song of the same name. Parton says that without a guitar nearby, she uses her fingernails as a musical instrument.

“I have to get one more of your biggest hits in here, ‘9 to 5,'” Geist says. ‘The story of being on the set of the movie you were starring in and having to write this song but being unable to play guitar and do the things you would normally do. You tapped it out a little bit on a desk or something?

Parton laughs at the question from Geist before answering. The country singer and songwriter confirms that she did use her nails as an instrument. Demonstrating to Today’s Willie Geist how she was able to make music with only her hands and fingernails, Parton explains how the song came about.

“I did it on my fingernails,” Dolly Parton says. “It sounds like a typewriter. I didn’t have my guitar because I didn’t want to get too scattered because we were trying to stay in the mood and they were doing lights and all of that. So I would just look around and get ideas watching whatever was going on the set. It was about women in the workplace. I would just kind of play my little fingers then go back to the hotel at night and write down the words.”

The 74-year-old music industry icon also told Geist her unconventional instrument made the movie’s sound track.

“I played my nails on the real record just for fun,” she recalls. “All of the girls got a kick out of me singing it to them. Even Jane (Fonda) and Lily (Tomlin) to this day — when they see me they start going. You have to have acrylic nails though. I don’t either of them do so they don’t play it as well as I do.”

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