The Time Dolly Parton Said No To Elvis (making hard business decisions)

Dolly Parton, one of the most successful American singer-songwriters of all time, is said to have written over 3,000 songs in here lifetime and still going. She is an incredible woman, who has won countless awards, including 7 grammys, 46 grammy nominations, and has had 110 career charted singles over the last 40 years. Mostly known for her work in country music, Dolly Parton is the most honored female country of all time.

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Apparently, Dolly Parton started playing a home guitar at the age of 7, and songwriting shortly thereafter. Written years and years later, “Jolene,” is still one of her most heartbreaking, haunting songs  which was inspired by events different than the ones who may have thought. I enjoyed learning about the back story here: The Story Behind Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”

Not only is Dolly Parton an incredible talent, but she is also known to be an incredible business woman. It is clear that to be a massive success as Dolly Parton, the artist would have to have skills far beyond their talent. It is her business sense and her awareness of the worth of her music, that has made Dolly Parton who she is today. I am currently reading a wonderful book called “The World’s Your Stage”. This book is, if anything else, an encouragement to thinking of ourselves not only as performing artists, or creative artists, but also as entrepreneurs, and as business men and women. Our  talent is generally not enough to make it as an artist, we must think outside the box, we must think of ourselves as ARTISTS + ENTREPRENEURS.

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Dolly Parton has been doing this as early as 1974, when she states having to make one of the hardest business decisions she ever made. That year, her chart-topping, hugely successful hit “I Will Always Love You” was released.

Her single was hugely successful on its own, and would of course have the interest of other artists to sing her song as a cover. Of one of them, was the King himself: Elvis Presley. 

Dolly Parton found out that Elvis was interested in doing her song, and immediately began telling all her friends how THE Elvis Presley was going to be singing her song. She had even been invited to come see Elvis sing. Elvis was already in town to record the single, but her enthusiasm was burst when she received a call (at the last minute) from Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ then manager, telling her:

“Now you know Elvis don’t record anything unless we get half the publishing?”
To which she replied: “well this has already been a hit for me and this is in my publishing company and I can’t give you half of it”.
So, Colonel Tom Parker made clear to her the final result which was that “well then we can’t do it.'”

One can see how this must have truly been one the hardest business decisions she has ever made, but Dolly already had had huge success with her own recording of this song, and knew its worth and selling potential. Dolly still states she would have wanted to hear Elvis sing one of her tunes, but in the long run, Dolly would gain more great success with “I Will Always Love You,” being recorded by Linda Ronstadt and most of all, by the late great Whitney Houston, for the mega hit on the Body Guard soundtrack. Here’s the video for you can bask in the glory of this song for a while!

What are some of the hardest career business decisions you have ever had to make?

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10 thoughts on “The Time Dolly Parton Said No To Elvis (making hard business decisions)

  1. I love writing poetry and play piano so at some point, I would find it interesting to put some of my poems to music and recording them. For now, I study voice and music theory and play and sing in some music jams for enjoyment. Music is food for the sou. ^__^

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, music is most definitely food for the soul! That is great you write poetry and piano. I know some other poets and musicians trying to combine their talents and making recordings of them or trying out songwriting. Glad you have some music jams you are a part of too. Sounds like you are doing lots of good stuff! Let me know if you ever have questions on songwriting. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for all the music news. Songwriting seems to have at least two schools of thought: begin with the words first and do the music next or vice versa. When “that” melody hits me, I will know it and words will then follow. For now, I am content with all my creative ideas finding voice in pictures and words. So much to do; so little time it seems. Thank you for the thoughtful comment. 🙂

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    1. Thank you for the kind words. I am so happy to see folks reading and enjoying my blog posts. That is why I created this blog 🙂 I just thought it was such an inspiring story about the strength of Dolly Parton so I wanted to share it with others. She is one of my favorite singers as well.

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