Did you know that Dolly Parton was once victim to a classic wardrobe malfunction? Believe it or not, the originators of this phenomenon were not Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. Years before, Dolly had an incident that could have been quite bad, but ended up working out in the most Dolly of ways. Stick around as Facts Verse presents: Dolly Parton’s Wardrobe Malfunction Caught on Camera!
Dolly’s Wardrobe Malfunction
Long before the famous Super Bowl halftime show when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake helped us coin the phrase, “wardrobe malfunction,” Dolly Parton had a close call that probably would have made that phrase come about 20 years early. Let’s jump back to 1978, when Dolly was at the Country Music Awards, and was nominated for Entertainer of the Year. While it wouldn’t be her first time on the stage to accept an award, it was certainly a big moment for her. In 1968 she had stood on the CMA stage for the first time, when she and Porter Waggoner won Vocal Group of the Year. Dolly was still a fresh face in the industry, and she accepted her award in a demure and polite manner. She actually didn’t even say a word – standing behind Porter as he gave an acceptance speech for the award.
But in 78, Dolly was a huge star, and was getting set to potentially be onstage by herself, winning the biggest award in country music.
And as she prepped for the possibility, she ran into a major issue. As the nominees were being read out, her gown suddenly came apart, tearing down the front of her body in the center. Dolly froze for a moment, realizing that she couldn’t possibly go onstage to accept the award with her midriff popping out of her dress. She had to think and act fast. She scanned the people around her, and noticed that Kenny Rogers’ wife, Marianne, had on a fur stole. Dolly quickly asked to borrow it, and she carried it in front of herself. . This all happened just in time, as Dolly’s name was then announced as the winner!
Stepping on Stage
She went up on stage and made a seemingly bizarre announcement. She told the crowd she had been hoping she didn’t win. Amidst the surprised faces in the audience, she further clarified. She said that she’d had her dress made special for the event, in case she won. And that, until a couple minutes prior, she’d been hoping to. But, she told the confused audience, since her dress had come apart only moments before, she had spent the last few minutes hoping she didn’t win. The audience soon realized what she meant, and the proclamation was met with laughter. She added a classic southern-style idiom and said, “But my daddy says that’s what I got for putting 50 pounds of mud in a 5 pound bag!’”
In an interview with PEOPLE Magazine that was celebrating 50 years of the CMA Awards, she talked about the dress. She said that she remembered thinking the dress was so beautiful, and that it was also made of incredibly delicate fabric. She even wondered to herself if the dress could stay together, especially given how tight she generally wore her dresses. Perhaps that was an omen that a wardrobe malfunction was about to happen!
But she also reflected back on the moment as having some positives. Because while she felt embarrassed that she couldn’t accept the award looking how she planned to, she did feel that the moment made the show much more entertaining. Of course, it’s no surprise that Dolly would be able to see that silver lining – she’s a consummate performer who knows better than anyone the value of entertainment, and how to do it in a huge variety of circumstances.
Now let’s take a look at some of our other favorite classic Dolly moments…
A 13-year old at the Opry
Dolly was a precocious child, to say the least. And as a wee one, she dreamed of performing at the Grand Ole Opry. Now, many children dream of that, and a few even get to someday. But not many of them fulfill that dream by the time they are 13 years old. And yet, that’s exactly when Dolly played the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville for the first time. Later in life, she commented that it was similar to the old classic song, “New York, New York” in that if you can make it at the Opry, you can then make it anywhere in the country music world.
After an introduction from the legendary Johnny Cash, Dolly strode to the stage and played a cover of “You Gotta Be My Baby” by George Jones. But if Dolly thought her night would be done after that, she was sorely mistaken. The crowd roared in approval, demanding an encore. Dolly obliged and played another. The crown roared again. She played a second encore. And once more. By the time her slot was over, she had played her original song and three encores. Not too shabby for a 13-year-old giving her first performance at the Opry!
I Will Always Love You
Many people mistakenly attribute the song “I Will Always Love You” to Whitney Houston, or they assume it was a song written for the late, legendary singer. And while Whitney’s rendition of the song became a monster hit, it was actually a Dolly Parton song first. Of course, it wasn’t exactly a B-side that no country music fans knew about. The song, as Dolly sang it, was a hit as well, and it’s one that will likely go down high on the list of her top hits ever. But even if you know it was originally a Dolly song, do you know the origins of why she wrote it?
Parton had gotten her start when she joined Porter Wagoner’s TV variety show. She had released her first album, called “Hello, I’m Dolly” in 1967, and Wagoner took a liking to her and her talent. He invited her to be a regular performer on his show. While on the show, the two recorded a duet of the song “The Last Thing On My Mind.” It rose as high as number 7 on the country Billboard charts, and was the beginning of a successful string of years for the two as a duo. They released an amazing 13 album together, before Dolly realized it was then time to move on an be a solo act. After 7 years of performing with Porter, she informed him she was going to branch out on her own. Wagoner wasn’t thrilled with the idea, and insisted the two keep recording together even if she was also going to record on her own. This didn’t work for Dolly, and this caused tension between the two of them. As she was getting ready to leave his show for good, she wrote a song that was meant to act as a goodbye to their years of performing together, and perhaps their friendship. She called it “I Will Always Love You” and the rest is history!
But there’s actually even more to the story. Dolly played hardball when it came to the rights to the song. Often when a big pop star records your song, you have to relinquish at least some of the songwriting rights. The performer of the new version will always get royalties from the performance of the new song, but the songwriting royalties can be negotiated. Dolly held firm, retaining her ownership of the song. As such, she’s made a ton of money on the Whitney version. But, in classic Dolly fashion, she decided to do something good with the money. In 2021, she revealed that she used money from those royalties to buy office spaces in a primarily black community in Nashville, in honor of Whitney. She felt the singer would be proud knowing that her version of the song is helping build up a community of color.
9 to 5
By 1980, the world was fully aware of what a staggering talent Dolly Parton was. But they had no idea that she had acting in her bag of tricks as well. But they were about to find out, as Dolly signed on to play one of the leads in the classic comedy “9 to 5.” Acting as 1/3 of a trio that also included the legends Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, Dolly held her own on screen, wowing audiences and critics alike. As part of the deal to act in the film, she insisted on writing and performing the title track. She wrote the song “9 to 5” specifically for it, though it has gone on to outshine the movie in many ways. It’s considered one of her greatest hits!
In more recent times, Dolly rerecorded a version of the song with another legendary singer Kelly Clarkson. Their version will be a part of the soundtrack for an upcoming documentary called Still Working 9 to 5. It puts a focus on the wage gap in American society, and the general working conditions for women in the workforce.
Her donation to help fight COVID-19
It was made public in 2021 that Dolly had donated a million bucks at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. A huge chunk of her donation, which she gave to Moderna, went directly towards the development of the COVID vaccine. She was quoted as saying that she felt incredibly proud that she was able to contribute some of the ‘seed money’ that eventually went into making the vaccine a reality, saving countless lives in the process.
Dolly Parton is perhaps the biggest all time name in country music, and one of the biggest entertainers America has ever seen. And she’s not only continued to churn out incredible work over the decades, but she’s also been a beacon of hope and an example of how someone can use their fame and money in positive ways. She is certainly a legend among legends!
Now it’s time to hear from you. Did you know about Dolly’s wardrobe malfunction at the Country Music Awards in 1978? What’s your favorite Dolly Parton song? Let us know in the comments section below!