Why Porter Wagoner Released New Duets With Dolly Parton After She Left ‘The Porter Wagoner Show’ Despite Their Messy Feud

Dolly Parton left The Porter Wagoner Show in 1974. She wanted to spread her wings and chase her dreams as a solo artist. Plus, she and Porter Wagoner had been fighting a lot and she wanted to remove herself from the toxic work environment. But Wagoner didn’t want her to leave. Together, they’d become hugely successful and he didn’t want to let that go. After she finally convinced Wagoner to release her, he slammed her in the press. He even sued her. And yet, years after they split, new Porter and Dolly songs could be heard on the radio. Here’s why.

Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner look off to the right in an old black and white photo.
Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

When Dolly Parton started doing well, Porter Wagoner wanted to put out an album with their never-released songs

“After leaving Porter, I realized there were a lot of things left ‘in the can,’ meaning songs we recorded that didn’t make it onto our albums,” Parton wrote in her 2020 book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. “So Porter thought, ‘Well, she’s doing so well. We should put out some more duets.'”

The Queen of Country, however, was against the idea. At that point, she had her own thing going. She didn’t need new Porter and Dolly songs on the radio.

“I didn’t see it that way,” she wrote. “I was having hits of my own and didn’t need something coming out like that. I thought there would be a better place and time, later on. But he insisted that we put this out.”

As the “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” singer experienced more and more success on her own, Wagoner grew increasingly resentful. In 1979, he sued her for $3 million.

“He claimed she owed him money for breach of a management contract and for other results from their separation,” reads the book Dolly on Dolly. “Seeking $3 million, Wagoner argued that he’d given Dolly two cars, rings, and diamond necklaces. His suit asked for a number of items: 15 percent of her net income from June 1974 through June 1979, 15 percent of her outstanding record royalties, 15 percent of future record royalties, and so on.” 

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Parton and Wagoner ended up settling out of court in 1980. The “Down From Dover” singer reportedly gave her old boss $1 million and the right to release their songs “in the can.”

“It did turn out to be a good album, and I have some good songs on it,” Parton wrote in her 2020 book. “In fact, ‘Beneath the Sweet Magnolia Tree’ is one of my favorite songs that I wrote in those Porter days. It has a beautiful melody, and we did sing it so well together.”

Today, Dolly Parton has no hard feelings for Porter Wagoner

Finally leaving The Porter Wagoner Show and then being sued by her former partner was difficult for Parton.

“That whole period of time was so convoluted,” she wrote. “I thought I had moved past everything and that we had leveled out. Then, here it all comes again, stirring things up as if nothing had ever changed.”

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But, looking back, Parton wouldn’t change a thing. She’s happy with where she is now and she knows everything that’s happened to her brought her to today.

“But that’s part of life, and it’s bound to happen,” she wrote. “I understand it all now. It was all meant to be, and I don’t regret any of it. I honestly don’t. Because it took every single thing that happened in my life to put me here, right now. To change one thing would change everything. It was painful and confusing at the time. But I’m sure he was doing the best he could. And I know I was doing the best I could. So it all worked out okay. You have to accept, and you have to go on.”