Dolly Parton: Johnny Carson Wasn’t Sure Carl Dean Was Real – ‘I Never See This Guy’

In 1977, Dolly Parton made her first appearance on The Tonight Show with host, Johnny Carson. That began a hilarious chemistry they displayed during her visits that would delight viewers until he stepped down in 1992. And after knowing Parton for that 15 years, Carson found it hard to believe she’d actually been married to her husband, Carl Dean, for all that time.

Dolly Parton during a 'Tonight Show' interview with host Johnny Carson on May 8, 1991
(l-r) Dolly Parton and Johnny Carson | Gary Null/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Dolly Parton told Johnny Carson he was Carl Dean’s favorite

During one of Parton’s earliest visits to The Tonight Show in 1977, she told Carson that she and Dean had been married ten years. She also added that he didn’t like to watch her perform. So, he didn’t see her Tonight Show interviews with Carson but she would relay the jokes back to him.

And even though Carson and Parton had a playfully flirtatious rapport in their interviews, he was Dean’s “favorite” according to Parton. She shared, “Johnny’s my favorite, too.”

Eventually, she told the story of meeting Dean at the laundromat in Nashville the very first day she arrived. As their love story goes, she decided to leave home with a sack of dirty clothes and was standing outside “the Wishy Washy” when a good-looking guy drove by.

Carson asked if she asked him to come and see her “spin cycle,” a line she said she wished she would have thought of that day. But Dean did go into the laundromat for a chat and the rest was relationship goal history.

Johnny Carson to Dolly Parton: ‘So, there is a Carl Dean.’

In Parton’s last Tonight Show chat with Carson in 1992, the two discussed how much she liked to go camping. Carson wondered who went camping with her and she told him she camped with Dean. That’s when the host asked her, somewhat disbelievingly, “Are you really married?”

He went on to explain that he’d known Parton for years since she’d been coming on the show but said, “I never see this guy.”

Notably, Carson did remember Carl’s name. But in signature fashion, Parton joked that she never saw him, either, despite their long marriage.

“So, there is a Carl?” Carson asked, which she confirmed and shared that they would celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary that year.

At that point, Carson seemed pretty much astounded. “I don’t mean to embarrass you but Carl keeps a low profile,” he marveled. To explain that, she told him Dean never liked all the “commotion of show business” but preferred to just stay home to watch it on T.V.

Dolly Parton and Carl Dean, married since 1966

Through the years, Parton has spent a lot of time swatting off rumors her husband doesn’t even exist according to TODAY. She has explained many times to the public that Dean just doesn’t like the spotlight at all, but it seems she can’t emphasize the at all part enough.

According to Parton, Dean has always respected her career but never felt he wanted to be a part of the entertainment world. For her part, she says she’s respected that decision and even says their secret to success in marriage was frequent time apart.

It’s hard to deny they’ve done something right since they married on May 30, 1966 and are among the longest-lasting couples in the industry.

RELATED: Johnny Carson Once Interrupted Frank Sinatra’s ‘Religious Experience’ to Curse at Him