Dolly Parton’s Uncle, And Career Inspiration, Billy Owens, Passes Away

The 85-year-old singer-songwriter "helped [Dolly Parton] see [her] dreams come true

“I’ll start this eulogy by saying I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t been there. He was there…there in my young years to encourage me to keep playing my guitar, to keep writing my songs, to keep practicing my singing.”

In an April 7 social media post, Dolly Parton acknowledged the passing of her uncle — and greatest career inspiration — Billy Owens. “He was there to help build my confidence standing on stage where he was always standing behind me or close beside me with his big ol’ red Gretsch guitar,” she continued.

The 85-year-old took Parton “back and forth to Nashville” to knock on publishing companies’ doors early in her career, plus wrote at least 800 songs, including Parton favorites like her 1966 hit “Put It Off Until Tomorrow.” He also wrote songs recorded by Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, Ricky Skaggs, Kris Kristofferson, and more. She also noted, “He also traveled the road with many big artists playing his guitar, including playing on stage with me in my early years in Nashville.”

In his later years, Owens worked at Dollywood and with non-profit organizations to plant 70,000 chestnut trees in the Great Smoky Mountain area along the Tennessee and North Carolina border.

Parton’s emotional reflections concluded thusly:

“I bet a lot of our own relatives don’t even know all of the great things that Uncle Bill did behind the scenes through his life. But the greatest thing he ever did for me was to help me see my dreams come true, and for that, I will be forever grateful,” she wrote. “I’m sure that Uncle Bill’s friends, fans, his wife Sandy, his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids will join me when I say that we will always love you.”