Leslie Jordan First Saw Dolly Parton in a High School Auditorium in 1973
Dolly Parton is among the many stars to feature on Company's Comin', a new album of Southern gospel standards from actor-turned-pandemic-social-media-star Leslie Jordan. While Jordan's life path has been long and often circuitous — and he hasn't always rubbed elbows with the stars of country music — meeting Parton was a dream he'd had ever since he was young.
At the 2021 ACM Awards, Jordan was on hand as a presenter for the Duo of the Year category. Backstage in the virtual press room, he shared the story of the first time he ever saw Parton, decades before they met and decided to collaborate.
"I drove from Chattanooga, Tenn., all the way up to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Sevierville — that area," Jordan explains, speaking of the East Tennessee region from which Parton hails. "The rumor was Dolly was coming back to perform in the high school auditorium."
Much later on in life, after he and Parton had officially met, he would relay this story to her. "She said, 'What year was that?' and I said, ''73 ... Dolly, I can also tell you what your opening line was.' She goes, 'No you can't, because I think you're making this up.'
"I said, 'Dolly, I was there. It was 1973. You walked onstage and said, 'What's a country girl without her haystack?!' Because her hair was like this," Jordan says in an animated Southern drawl, hands gesticulating wildly above his head. "She goes, 'You were there!'"
Although Jordan ultimately fulfilled his dream of meeting Parton, he says, that having gotten to know her, he's realized something important: "I'll tell you what I tell everybody: You don't have to meet Dolly. You know Dolly."
"Dolly is exactly what you think she is ... I just wanna live my life like her," Jordan adds. "There's nobody that doesn't like Dolly!"
Company's Comin' came out on April 2. Also featured on the project are country superstars such as Tanya Tucker and Brothers Osborne's T.J. Osborne, as well as Ashley McBryde, Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile and many more.