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Dolly Parton married her husband, Carl Dean, when she was 20 years old. And they’ve been together ever since. According to Parton in her 2020 book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, in the 54 years they’ve spent together, she and Dean have never called each other by their first names. They prefer pet names.

Dolly Parton talking about her 2016 North American tour on a press day.
Dolly Parton | Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Webster PR

Dolly Parton and Carl Dean’s pet names for each other

Parton met Dean on her first day in Nashville. She had just graduated high school and was ready to finally chase her dreams. At the time, she wasn’t looking for a boyfriend (she’d left a couple of love interests back home in East Tennessee). But, sure enough, she met Dean right outside of the laundromat and they hit it off instantly. He asked her out on a date, she said yes, and the rest is history.

From then on, Parton and Dean never took to calling each other by their real names.

“Carl and I have never called each other by our first names,” she wrote in her 2020 book. “Never have, never will. It just seems so impersonal to us to do that.”

So what do they call each other?

“We call each other all kinds of pet names,” she wrote. “He calls me ‘Kid,’ and I call him ‘Dad.'”

‘We’re as funny as can be’

Parton and Dean have been happily married for 54 years. Parton says part of what makes her marriage with Dean work so well is their sense of humor.

“We have a great sense of humor,” she wrote. “We’re as funny as can be. You would absolutely roll on the floor if you saw us together. We just do these routines all the time, without even realizing that we’re doing them. We’re both very witty and very quick. He’s really funny, and I’ve been known to be. So sometimes we just laugh so hard. I think that laughter has been one of the best parts of our relationship. I never know what he’s going to do or say, and he never knows what I’m going to do or say.”

Dolly Parton and Carl Dean like to do the same things

Another thing that keeps Parton and Dean going strong is their appreciation for similar things, like marveling at the great outdoors.


Dolly Parton Says Husband Carl Dean Is ‘Not Necessarily One of the Biggest Fans of My Music’

“We have a lot of things in common,” she wrote. “We both like to travel around. We have our little camper, and we like to get out and just sightsee. We’ll stop at a grocery store, get a few little things, and go picnicking. We’ll go to drive-through restaurants. We just like to do simple things. We don’t complicate our lives, and we don’t overthink things. We live a pretty peaceful life, actually.”

At the end of the day, Parton and Dean are great friends.

“I think if you can be friends, that’s a big, big part of it,” she wrote. “There’s nothing you can’t do together. Being great friends is the secret of happiness.”