Dolly Parton Hates the Way She Sounds in These Songs — ‘They Are Terrible’

Dolly Parton has recorded more songs than most musicians, over 1,000 when studio recordings, remixes, and live tracks are combined. There are bound to be a few that the Queen of Country is less than happy with. As it turns out, there definitely are. And they came about at the very beginning of her career.

Dolly Parton singing on stage in a pink, sparkly outfit with big, blond hair.
Dolly Parton | Andrew Putler/Redferns

Just getting started

Parton’s Uncle Bill Owens took an interest in her love of music when she was just a little girl. A musician himself, he was impressed at her knack for songwriting, and at such a young age no less. He bought her her first guitar and helped her learn how to play. When Parton was a teenager, she and Owens would periodically drive to Nashville to try and jumpstart their careers.

“My Uncle Bill and I had been going back and forth to Nashville all my young years,” wrote Parton in her 2020 book, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. “We’d take along whatever food we had and go, trying to get people to record us, to listen to us. We would sleep in the car. My bedroom was in the back, and his was in the front seat.”

Dolly Parton’s first ‘shot at the big time’

During one of those trips to Nashville, Parton was presented with a promising opportunity.

“Buddy Killen, who owned Tree Publishing company at the time, is one of the people who gave me my very first shot at the big time, so to speak,” she wrote. “He took an interest in my songs, and he took an interest in me.”

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“When I was fifteen, he got [Jerry Kennedy to produce] a record of me called ‘(It May Not Kill Me but) It’s Sure Gonna Hurt,” Parton continued.

the single came out on Mercury Records, but nothing came of it. In the end, Killen told Parton to “go back home.” “You gotta finish school,” he told her.

Dolly Parton’s Kitty Wells covers

During that time, Parton noticed a trend of undiscovered artists recording covers. For many people just getting started, it was their ticket in.

“It came to my attention that they were doing these [tribute] records of [unknown] artists doing other people’s songs,” she wrote. “Because I was a nasally kind of singer, somebody said, ‘Well, maybe this little girl can sing Kitty Wells songs.’ So I did.”

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Parton, more than anything, needed the money.

“I was doing anything I could to pick up a little bit here and there,” she wrote. “They paid me just $200 or $300.”

Parton recorded all of her Wells covers in an hour and half.

“I was just a kid and, you know, you do what you do,” she wrote.

They did not turn out well, according to the “Jolene” singer.

“But those records have lived forever,” wrote Parton. “They are not that good at all. They are terrible, actually. They’re awful. I hate the way I sound on them. But I do love Kitty Wells, and I love those songs. And those things are stepping-stones to a bigger career.”