Dolly Parton on Her Proudest Moment: ‘I Had Made It’

Dolly Parton has a lifetime of proud moments. In an interview she did in 2020, she named her first proud moment as a performer — when she became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. That’s when she knew she’d made it. Here’s how Parton felt that day back in 1969 and the first time she ever performed at the historic performance venue as a girl.

Dolly Parton performing in a sequined outfit in black and white. She's passionately singing into a microphone.
Dolly Parton | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Dolly Parton’s proudest moment

When Parton was interviewed by USA Today in Aug. 2020 after being named one of the publication’s Women of the Century, she was asked if she has a proudest moment.

“Oh, I have so many proud moments, I couldn’t even begin to tell you, but one of the first early proud moments was when I got to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry,” she replied. “When I became a member back in 1969, that was a big, big night for me, knowing that my people were listening and that I had made it. Just like the song about New York and Broadway. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Well, country singers always think, ‘If I can make it to the Grand Ole Opry, beyond the Grand Ole Opry, then you’ve made it.'”

Dolly Parton first performed at the Grand Ole Opry when she was 13 

When Parton was a young girl chasing her dreams, her Uncle Bill Owens acted as a manager of sorts. After she recorded her first record (at the age of 12), Owens thought he and Parton should set their sights on the Grand Ole Opry next.

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“So we’d go on trips back and forth to Nashville in whatever beat-up old car that Uncle Bill would have, anything that could take us there,” wrote Parton in her 2020 book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. “I remember this one car [a 1953 brown Ford with a bashed-in passenger side and a blue, replacement front fender]—I think the very car that took me to the Opry—my side was wired together. You couldn’t get out of that side. I’d have to slide over and get out of the driver’s side.”

During one of those trips, Owens got Parton a slot in a Grand Ole Opry performance.

“Uncle Bill was really good at talking to people and convincing people,” she wrote. “And who’s going to say ‘no’ to a little kid?”

A nice bonus

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When it was Parton’s turn to perform, Johnny Cash introduced her.

“Johnny Cash introduced me, and I thought he was the sexiest thing that ever was,” she wrote. “That’s when I first felt hormones raging. It was his charisma and me being a growing girl. It was the first time a man had ever made me feel like a woman.”

Parton was completely smitten by Cash, but she was even more excited that she got the opportunity to sing at the Grand Ole Opry.

“It was a special time,” she wrote. “Being on the Grand Ole Opry was a dream. That was something.”