Dolly Parton Was Discouraged from Marrying Her Husband, Carl Dean

Dolly Parton is known for her long marriage to Carl Dean almost as much as she is known for being a country music star. She revealed she was once told not to get married. Here’s why Parton was discouraged from tying the knot.

Dolly Parton’s secret to a happy marriage

Dolly Parton performs on Country Music Television while holding a microphone and wearing a purple dress.
Dolly Parton on Country Music Television | R. Diamond/WireImage

Fans are fascinated with Parton and Dean’s long-lasting marriage. People often ask her to share the secret to staying married so long. In her book Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, the country music legend says one of the secrets to their strong marriage is respect.

Trust and a sense of humor are also key ingredients to their marriage. Parton says she and her husband joke around so much, and they’re so funny that anyone would “roll on the floor” laughing if they saw their interactions. Parton says laughter has been one of the best parts of their relationship.

Why Dolly Parton was discouraged from marrying Carl Dean

Dolly Parton signs a fan's record at Peaches Records.
Dolly Parton at Peaches Records | Tom Hill/Getty Images

In her book Songteller, Parton writes about the year she met Dean. She told music producer Fred Foster that she was thinking about getting married. However, Foster wasn’t thrilled with this news. He knew how talented Parton was, and he wanted to continue developing her career. He told Parton now was not a good time to get married.

Foster told Parton she was not getting married. He had plans to invest his money in her career, and he didn’t want her to miss her shot at a music career. Parton says she didn’t listen to Foster. Instead, she and Dean eloped in Ringgold, Georgia, on May 30, 1966. 

Parton’s career took off, and she was in a good place. She says Foster asked her if she was happy she never got married. However, Parton shocked him when she revealed she had been married for two years. She let him know she got married the same weekend he told her not to.

Dolly Parton smiles and wears a pink outfit during an interview on the Today show.
Dolly Parton on the Today show in 2019 | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Parton’s mother-in-law was “heartbroken” that she and Dean eloped. She had dreams of a traditional wedding. “When Carl and I told his mother that we were getting married, she was so excited that she was finally gonna get to do a wedding,” Parton tells Country Music Television. “Because her only daughter had eloped. So, she was so happy she would get to throw a big wedding party.”

A big wedding party wasn’t in the cards. “Everyone at my label — Monument Records and Fred Foster — had invested money in me and in building my career, so they asked me if I’d wait a year to get married,” says Parton in her CMT interview. “And I didn’t want to not do what I was supposed to do. Carl’s mother was just heartbroken.”

The song that was inspired by Dolly Parton’s husband

Parton’s song with Porter Wagoner, “Say Forever You’ll Be Mine,” was inspired by her husband. In 1976, the song reached No. 5 on the music charts.

In Songteller, Parton says this was one of the earliest songs she wrote about her relationship with her husband. Years after the song’s original release, Parton re-released “Say Forever You’ll Be Mine” on her album Pure & Simple.

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