It was on this date in 1969 that the incomparable Dolly Partonwas officially inducted into the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 23 as the 140th member, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Her first appearance at the Mother Church of Country Music came 10 years prior to her induction at the young age of 13, when she performed on the Opry with her Uncle Bill Owens. He managed to somehow get her a spot on the show, as they traveled from the rural Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee for the occasion.
She was introduced to the stage by none other than Johnny Cash that night (her first crush), and she sang George Jones’ hit “You Gotta Be My Baby.”
“We’ve got a little girl here from up in East Tennessee.
Her daddy’s listening to the radio at home and she’s gonna be in real trouble if she doesn’t sing tonight, so let’s bring her out here.”
Dolly received three encores that night from a very impressed audience, and says that it was a dream come true to perform there and ultimately find a permanent home at such an important institution in the genre:
“It was always my dream to be on the Opry. I actually got to sing on the Grand Ole Opry when I was about 10 years old. I became a member in the late ’60s.
They call it the ‘Mother Church,’ because the old Ryman was a church, but it’s sacred to me, wherever it goes — the church of my heart.”
She also remembered seeing that classic WSM microphone stand and being completely in awe standing on the Ryman Auditorium stage:
“As I heard the band play my introduction, I lifted my head and looked up toward the lights. I smiled at the people in the balcony and then let ‘er rip.”
As she so poetically points out, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere… and Dolly’s made it everywhere in her long and storied career in the entertainment business:
“For me, the Opry is like the song ‘New York, New York’ — if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”
It’s hard to say much about Dolly that hasn’t been said, as she’s become not only a country legend but a pop culture icon, as well.
She’s become a humanitarian, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and so much more, but it all really started with her very first perfomance at the Opry when she was a young teenager, and ultimately, her induction over half a century ago.
If there’s one thing I know to be true, it’s that the world will never be so lucky as to have another Dolly Parton. She’s one of a kind in every sense, and has accomplished everything in her life by being exactly who she is and making no apologies for it.
Not bad for a poor ol’ country girl from the mountains of east Tennessee…
And while you’re here, you have to check out her performance of “My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy” at the Opry in 1969: