Dolly Parton’s First Label Wanted Her to Sing Rock, Not Country

Parton's massive pop-crossover success would come in the '80s with "9 to 5"

“It sounded like people thought it was childish, so they thought I might have a better chance in rock ‘n’ roll.”

Even though Dolly Parton appears capable of achieving almost anything at the moment, the idea of Monument Records having her singing rock tunes in the late 1960s seems far-fetched. However, that was indeed almost the case. A recent conversation with Music Week Magazine highlighted this lightly regarded — yet quite important — fact about Parton’s career as post-pandemic, a “Dolly Fest” event purported to be “very Dolly” is rumored to be held in 15 stadiums worldwide to celebrate the beloved superstar’s 75th birthday.

Dig a bit deeper, and in the midst of an episode of NPR’s 2019 “Dolly Does America” podcast, Parton notes the same to host Jad Abumrad, who connects the dots to 1967 and realizes it’s the same year that The Beatles released their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and says, “You can hear that the label is trying to shove her that direction.”

“I’d never had a pop hit,” Parton continues. “I had a song out called ’Happy, Happy Birthday Baby’ that was the best thing I’d had, and it wasn’t even considered a hit at all,” she says regarding a song that reached 108 on the Billboard pop charts.

Entertainingly enough, Dolly Parton’s massive pop-crossover success would come with 1980’s “9 to 5.” The platinum-selling film soundtrack single reached number one 13 years after she recorded “Happy, Happy Birthday Baby.” Strangely enough, Monument Records’ owner Fred Foster recalls the following conversation:

“I told Dolly she would be a gigantic movie star someday. And she said, ’I think you have lost your mind.'”