Dolly Parton Says the Ryman Auditorium and Grand Ole Opry Are ‘Like Home’
Dolly Parton performed two sold-out shows at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on Friday and Saturday (July 31 and Aug. 1, respectively), and although the concerts marked the country legend's first time performing in Music City in 13 years, for Parton, the famous venue remains an important part of her career.
"The Grand Ole Opry [and] the Ryman [are] like home to me," Parton told The Boot and other reporters at a media event prior to her Friday evening show. "I became a member on Jan. 4, 1969, and I’ve played here before, 13 years ago, and I just wanted this to be the place I played, because I felt safe there."
The Tennessee native became a member of the Opry right before her 23rd birthday, and it remains one of the most pivotal events of her illustrious career.
"I think the night I became a member is when it all kind of came home to me. I was seeing my dream come true," she says. "I’ve been very proud to be part of the Grand Ole Opry. I love country music, and I love this town, and I love the Ryman Auditorium.
"It’s always important to me to be a member. I used to stand on the porch and sing to a tin can with a tobacco stick sticking out, thinking, ‘I’m on the Grand Ole Opry,'" Parton remembers. "The Grand Ole Opry was, for country singers, that was their big destination. So that was always my dream."
Although much has remained the same in the "Mother Church of Country Music," much has changed as well.
"The old Ryman didn't even have air conditioning," Parton recalls. "There was one dressing room for the boys, one dressing room for the girls. We’d almost get in fist fights trying to get a spot in the mirror -- you know how girls are. It’s air conditioned now, but it still has that same old feeling. But I just love this place ... There’s just something sacred about it."
The country legend first graced the revered stage when she was around 10 years old
"I was a little girl the first time I played," she shares. "My uncle used to bring me back and forth to Nashville. And he was the one that was always trying to get someone to let me on the Grand Ole Opry. And so finally, Jimmy C. Newman, who was a member of the Grand Ole Opry, he let me have one of his spots, because usually the stars had two spots on the Opry, and so I had a chance to come out and sing.
"Johnny Cash was kind of hosting that night, and he brought me on, and I got to sing a song. I sang a George Jones song called "You Gotta Be My Baby,"" Parton adds. "That came out about 1956, and so that was one of my big numbers. It was a thrill beyond compare. I got an encore. I know now it wasn’t 'cause I was good, it was 'cause I was little."
Although the "I Will Always Love You" singer resides in Nashville, she prefers to stay off the stage and in the comfort of her own home when she's around.
"I’m here all the time, but I don’t get to do the Opry as much as I’d like to," Parton explains. "When I’m here, I just want to be at the house. I want to hang out with my husband. But I’m gone so much, and when I do perform, like I said, this is like home for me. It’s not like the same pressures."
Parton, who remains humble about her many accolades and achievements, says that she was genuinely surprised at how quickly tickets for her shows sold out.
"I guess I just didn’t really feel like that many people wanted to see me in Nashville," she says. "I felt like they knew me. I felt like people outside, the tickets went real fast. But I think a lot of that was the worthy cause."
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