Dolly Parton Recalls Her Parking Lot Days
Back in the 1960s, when she was singing with Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton never dreamed she would one day be performing in a lavish stage production like she did in London in 2008, spotlighted on the recently released CD/DVD 'Live From London.'
"No -- absolutely not!" the superstar tells CMT. "You don't think about it. I didn't even know you needed so many people to do that. But you do, to do that type of production. There's a lot of work and a lot of money, and a lot of people involved in that."
Back then, Dolly's stage production consisted mostly of a flatbed truck parked in a store parking lot.
"Lord, we used to play everywhere!" she recalls with a laugh. "We've come a long way since then! A lot of times, it's sort of like how they do corporate shows now. We used to do things in the parking lots of like a Zayre's or a Wal-Mart-type store. The company would pay you to come to bring people to the mall or the different stores, so we used to do some of that. There was big money in it, but we did play theaters and auditoriums. Porter's TV show was the No. 1 syndicated show, but I remember doing shows like that many times."
And when they hit the road, it was with the entire band sharing one bus. There was no such thing as a bus driver, or crew to set up and break down equipment onstage.
"We traveled all in a bus together, everybody you saw onstage," Dolly recalls. "Don Warden, who played the steel guitar and also sang the high harmony in Porter's group, was also the road manager. And Don was the bus driver, and George McCormick -- who also played guitar and sang -- was the relief driver. Don was also the mechanic. We were like a self-contained group! We did not have roadies. Don and the different guys unloaded their own instruments. They set their instruments up, they set up the sound, they set up the lights. We had nothing but that one bus, and everything we had, we carried underneath that bus. That whole band set up their own stuff and tore it down."
A 'concert rider' (an artist's list of demands for the venue to supply certain foods and beverages backstage) was an unheard-of luxury.
"I don't think that happened -- or that I really exercised it -- until after I had left Porter's show, and started doing some of the bigger shows when I went with management," Dolly reflects. "Usually, they're the ones who kind of demand certain things and have riders. So that was probably in the mid-'70s to '80s when that started happening."
Even then, Dolly's requests were simple.
"Just water and chips -- potato chips -- anything to do with potatoes!" she laughs. "And junk food, like candy bars and chips and dip. Now we have to get fruits and vegetables with some low-cal dip. We get cold cuts and that sort of thing. But it's usually still just water and colas. I'm not demanding. I'm not a diva. Usually, at the concerts anymore, they serve dinner backstage, so they'll put a few cookies, some fruit and vegetables and some cheese slices backstage."
Dolly's 'Live from London' CD/DVD is available now.