Dolly Parton and her beloved husband Carl Dean have been married for 54 years, but in that time he’s made less than a handful of appearances.
But that doesn’t mean they’re not still going strong. Far from it – from the moment they met outside Nashville’s Wishy-Washy laundromat in 1964, both were hooked.
Spotting the woman he knew he would marry, Carl, then 21, caught an 18-year-old Dolly’s attention with a quip about sunburn and her revealing outfit.
“My first thought was I’m going to marry that girl,” Carl once said. “My second was, ‘Lord she’s good lookin.’ And that was the day my life began.”
Dolly had only been in town for one day, having left behind two boyfriends back home in the Smoky Mountains to launch her country singing career.
At that point, love was the last thing on her mind.
“So the first thing I do, the first day in Nashville, I meet Carl. I fell for him, and he fell for me,” Dolly, 74, writes in her new book, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics.
Things moved quickly between the pair. But when Fred Foster at Combine Music wanted to invest in her as an artist, he told Dolly in no uncertain terms that she was not to get married.
She writes: “He said, ‘No, you’re not getting married. You can’t get married, because I’m going to invest all this money and this is your big shot.'”
Not that the head-strong icon listened. She and Carl headed to Ringgold, Georgia, where they tied the knot that very weekend with only her mother as a witness.
Although Fred would find out further down the line.
She continued: “A year of so later, after I started doing well, Fred said: ‘Now aren’t you glad you didn’t get married?’ I said, ‘I’ve been married for two years. I got married the same weekend you told me not to.”
But unlike Dolly, fame wasn’t something Carl wanted or enjoyed and he instead chose to live a quiet life on their sprawling farm, running his paving firm until his recent retirment.
“Listen, he’s a homebody and doesn’t like to go out in public,” Dolly previously told The Mirror.
“We have a farm and he’s more than happy keeping the fields mowed, the barns painted and working away on his farm equipment.”
In fact, the singer – whose 1973 song Jolene was inspired by a woman trying to steal Carl – once described her husband as a “loner”.
“He doesn’t particularly care about being around anybody but me. He’s just always asked me to leave him out of all this. He does not like all the hullabaloo,” she previously explained.
He did once, however, accompany her to an awards ceremony, but the experience was enough to put him off for life.
And as soon as they left the BMI Awards banquet to celebrate Dolly winning the award for Put It Off Until Tomorrow, a traumatised Carl made it clear that while he fully supported Dolly, he would never step out at a public event again.
Dolly explained: “He dressed up, wore a tuxedo, and went with me. After it was over, he started ripping stuff off before we even got to the car.
“He said, ‘I’m happy for you. I want you to do what you want to do. But don’t ever ask me to go to another one of them damn things, because I ain’t going.’ And he never has.”
*Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics is available in now bookshops and online.
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