A Lot of People Don’t Realize Dolly Parton Put Her Husband on the Cover of This Album

To many people, Dolly Parton‘s husband is a mystery. Though he’s been married to one of the world’s biggest stars for 54 years, he’s rarely been seen in public. Carl Dean has made himself so scarce, in fact, that there was once a rumor that he doesn’t really exist.

In her 2020 book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, Parton writes that, through the years, people have told her that they’ve never seen her husband. “Well, yes you have, if you’ve looked at the album My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy,” she replies.

Dolly Parton in an all-white outfit taking questions from reporters on the red carpet in Hollywood, CA.
Dolly Parton | Chris Polk/FilmMagic

Dolly Parton’s husband, Carl Dean, doesn’t like the spotlight

Dean accompanied Parton to a dinner in 1966 where she was presented with a songwriting award for “Put It Off Until Tomorrow.” It was his first and last event in the public eye. As soon as the dinner was over, Dean turned to Parton and told her he wanted her to have everything she ever wanted, but he did not want to be in the spotlight ever again. And he never was.

“He does not want to be in the spotlight at all,” Parton told Entertainment Tonight in 2020. “It’s just not who he is. He’s like, a quiet, reserved person and he figured if he ever got out there in that, he’d never get a minute’s peace and he’s right about that.”

Carl Dean is on the cover of ‘My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy’

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Parton’s “My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy” album came out in Sept. 1969. It was her fourth solo album on the RCA Nashville label. The cover features a glamorous Parton lying on a couch. Her hair is done, her eye makeup is dramatic, her lips are glossy, and she’s deep in thought. Above her is an image — presumable what Parton is lost in thought over — of a man sitting on a tree trunk in the woods. There is a log cabin behind him. The man pictured is none other than Carl Dean.

“A lot of people don’t realize that I put my husband on the cover of the album,” Parton wrote in her 2020 book.

The title track

In Parton’s words, the song, “My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy,” is about “a girl whose dream was to get out of the country. She didn’t leave to become a prostitute, but that’s what she wound up doing in order to make a living. She thinks she’s going to go out and do so much with her life, but it doesn’t work out. She keeps missing the boy she left behind, and it is too late to go back home.”

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Looking back, Parton acknowledges that writing songs that featured such themes as prostitution, especially so early in her career, wasn’t the safest route for a new artist. But that’s just who she was. It’s who she still is.

“This was during my early years in show business, and my goodness, I was writing about a girl becoming a prostitute,” she wrote. “But I never shied away from any topic, whether it was suicide or prostitution or women’s rights or whatever. I was always like that and still am. Whatever it is, I can say it in a song, in my own way.”