Dolly Parton Cried for 3 Days After Scathing Comments From a Former Associate

Though Dolly Parton seems to be a perenially sunny public figure, she’s joked that part of her smiley outlook is because of her Botox. Like anyone else, she has gone through periods of sadness and difficulty. In a particularly challenging period of her life, Parton dealt with a lawsuit from former musical partner Porter Wagoner. At around the same time, a former associate reportedly made disparaging remarks about Parton in an interview. She shared how deeply the interview hurt her.

Dolly Parton wears a purple dress and stands with her hands clasped.
Dolly Parton | Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

Dolly Parton got her big break on ‘The Porter Wagoner Show’

From a very early age, Parton worked to be a musician. After moving to Nashville following her high school graduation, she got her big break when she became a fixture on The Porter Wagoner Show. They performed together on the program and toured throughout the country. While they fought frequently, Parton credits him for helping her launch her career.

“I think it’s important to my career because if it hadn’t been for him I may have still been struggling along and trying to get in the business,” she said, per the book Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters With Dolly Parton. “But he was good enough and saw far enough to where he thought I had something going, that I could be worked into something. I enjoy doing the duets. I think it’s a good contrast in our voices. And it’s good for both of us. That way you’ve got three artists really, him, me, and the two. And we’ve always got something in the charts.”

A former associate reportedly made disparaging comments about her in an interview

When Parton left Wagoner’s show to pursue music on her own, he filed a $3 million lawsuit claiming breach of contract. At around the same time, an article entitled “The Ugly Side of Dolly Parton” was published. It included an interview with one of her former associates who shared disparaging comments about the singer.

Per the book Smart Blonde: Dolly Parton by Stephen Miller, the associate was quoted as saying that Parton was the “Ghengis Khan of country music … she discarded me like a used Kleenex … she would ride over absolutely anyone in her ruthless determination to be number one.”

The associate announced she would seek $500,000 in damages following the article’s publication as she claimed she never made the comments. Regardless, the words hurt Parton.

“I cried for three days after I read that,” she told Ladies’ Home Journal in 1979. “It’s sad when you can’t defend yourself from untrue things that are going to be printed. I can’t discuss the lawsuit, but I owe Porter a whole lot of credit, and I just hope it turns out well for us both.” 

Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner made up near the end of his life

Wagoner died in 2007, and Parton made a point to forgive him toward the end of his life. 

“You have to forgive and forget,” Parton wrote in the book Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. “He gave me great opportunities, and I did appreciate him. Later on, we got back together and he said he was sorry about all of that. So I forgave him, and I asked him to forgive me.” 

She was with him in the hours before his death and believes he understood that she had put their contentious past behind her.

RELATED: Porter Wagoner Once Snapped at Dolly Parton on Air: ‘Shut Up’