Why a Journalist Once Called Dolly Parton’s Husband ‘An Unusual Fellow’

Dolly Parton‘s husband is a mystery. Despite being married to one of the world’s biggest stars, Carl Dean has made such a mission out of staying out of the spotlight that there was a time when some people didn’t think he was real. He is very real. And according to a feature Cosmopolitan did on Parton in 1979, he’s “an unusual fellow.”

Dolly Parton, one of the greatest figures in country (or pop) music, is photographed in Los Angeles on September 1, 2008.
Dolly Parton | Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Dolly Parton and her husband, Carl Dean

Parton met Dean on her first day in Nashville. He was driving around in his white Chevrolet when he saw her outside the laundromat. He hollered over to her and they got to talking. Though Parton was hesitant to go out with a stranger on her first day in a new city, she told Dean he could babysit with her the following afternoon. There, they continued to hit it off and Parton agreed to a date. They got married two years later and have been together ever since.

Carl Dean ‘is an unusual fellow’

Little has been said and written about Dean. But in 1979, Cosmopolitan did a feature on Parton. During the interview, Parton and her band, Gypsy Fever, threw a surprise party for Dean. So Cosmo writer Laura Cunningham got a first-hand look at Parton’s infamously private husband.

“He is an unusual fellow, this mystery husband,” she wrote, as recorded in the book Dolly on Dolly. “Tall and good-looking, rather like a young Gregory Peck, he has a way of moving his angular body so that he seems to come toward you in sections. He also makes exaggerated faces, talks to his right shoulder, hangs his head, looks under the table. Still, there’s real charm along with this strange series of tics. Carl Dean announces that he is a fan of television and night-club comic Steve Martin, and no doubt that explains a lot.”

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When the group yelled “Happy birthday!” to reveal the surprise, Dean responded with: “Well, I thank you from the bottom of my crotch.”

The Cosmo writer went on to say that every time Dean addressed the group, his speeches were all in “the style of an impersonation.”

“You sure are a real nice bunch of folks,” he said several times.

How Dolly Parton described her husband, Carl Dean

The year prior, Parton was interviewed by Playboy Magazine, where she spoke a bit about her mystery man.

“He’s just the funniest, wittiest guy in the world,” she said. “He’s really bright. He’s not backward at all. I just really wish that people would let him be. He’s a home-lovin’ person.”

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While she loves his odd sense of humor, the thing that drew her to him most of all was how he treats her.

“His honesty. His decency. His earthiness,” she said when Playboy asked what attracted her to Dean initially. “I like the way he loves me. His understanding of me and the things I do. The way he lets me be free. And lets me be me. He don’t try to choke me and demand anything from me.”