She’s now in the Country Music Hall of Fame, but Dolly Parton, country music’s most conspicuous star and one of its most prolific songwriters, refuses to rest on her laurels. She nabbed a pair of Grammy nominations just this week, and she continues to be active as ever — committed to everything from writing and recording music to starring in Hollywood films to demonstrating her business acumen with her Dollywood theme park in East Tennessee.
Parton, though, paused and took some time to reflect on her extraordinary career and revel with family, friends, colleagues and community leaders when the Country Music Hall of Fame honored her as one of its newest “family” members. The Hall of Fame presented her a bronze medallion commemorating her recent induction during a private ceremony at its museum in Nashville on Thursday, Jan. 6.
Parton and late country stars Conway Twitty and Johnny Bond were officially inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame — the highest honor in country music — in September during the 33rd Annual Country Music Association Awards. The Hall of Fame presented bronze medallions to Bond’s daughters and Twitty’s widow during a special luncheon at the Tennessee Governor’s Executive Residence the day after the CMA awards, but Parton was unable to attend because of a prior commitment.
Months later, it is clear that Parton is still excited about joining the ranks of country music’s masters in the Hall of Fame.
“It’s nice not only to be in the Hall of Fame, but also to still be young enough and healthy enough to still be a part of country music,” remarked Parton, who at 53 is the youngest living member of the Hall of Fame. “I was excited that I got to perform on the CMA Awards and see myself go in the Hall of Fame.
“I didn’t have to be wheeled out in a rhinestone wheelchair, or on a gurney under a rhinestone sheet,” she joked. “I’m glad I was able to live and see it, able to enjoy it.”
On hand for Thursday night’s ceremony were fellow Hall of Fame members Kitty Wells, E.W. “Bud” Wendell and Earl Scruggs, who was celebrating his 76th birthday. Wendell, who was the manager of the Grand Ole Opry when Parton made her first appearance on the show, did the honors of presenting Parton her medal.
Porter Wagoner, Parton’s longtime stage partner who played a pivotal role in launching the superstar’s career, saluted Parton, making humorous, sometimes suggestive, remarks with a wink and nod that had Parton laughing and rebutting.
Emmylou Harris, who records with Parton in the famous Trio that also includes Linda Ronstadt, talked about discovering Parton’s music through her brother’s love for the singer. Harris, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, also performed a solo rendition of Parton’s “To Daddy.”
Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist, Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell, Hall of Fame Director Kyle Young, Wendell and MCA Records Nashville Chairman Bruce Hinton, who serves as chairman of the Hall of Fame’s Board of Officers and Trustees, also congratulated Parton during formal presentations. Also in attendance were country stars Randy Scruggs, Johnnie Wright and The Wilkinsons, as well as members of the Hall of Fame staff, music industry and media.
Closing the program, Parton picked up the guitar and delivered a couple of poignant songs that were inspired by childhood experiences. Alison Krauss, Pat Bergeson, Steve Buckingham, Stuart Duncan and sister Stella Parton joined the night’s honoree on “My Tennessee Mountain Home” and “Coat of Many Colors” — appropriate songs for Parton to sing on a night when she took stock of her career surrounded by family and friends.
“People have asked me who I am going to be next to in the Hall of Fame,” Parton said after receiving her medallion. “I’m going to be next to nothing, compared to the wonderful people in the Hall of Fame. It’s really like the Hall of Saints to me, and to think that I could be here to see all this come true is overwhelming.
“All your life you dream of things like this. It’s real special. I feel very honored and very proud.”