Things You Might Not Know About Dolly Parton And Carl Dean’s RelationshipPublished on July 11, 2018. Updated May 20, 2020
For over five decades Dolly Parton has been one of the biggest and most recognizable stars in Hollywood, but even so, many are still surprised to find out that for that entire time she has been married! Despite the size of her fame, Parton has been able to keep her marriage to husband Carl Dean out of the spotlight, and despite rumors and tabloid attacks, the two have never wavered. Together, Dolly and Carl have ridden the waves of her extreme fame but have always balanced out their time together, keeping their marriage intact for over 50 incredible years. Get to know the pair better with these 12 things you never knew about their love story and relationship:
12. How They Met
The moment Dolly Parton graduated high-school she knew her days in Sevierville, Tennesse were over and the very next day she left for Nashville where she didn’t know anyone and just wanted to pursue her career in country music. What Dolly Parton didn’t know, however, was just how fateful that move would be for both her personal and professional life. During her very first full day in Nashville in 1964, an 18-year-old Parton met 21-year-old Carl Dean. According to Dean, Parton caught his eye as she was leaving the laundry mat because of her revealing outfit and he informed her she was going to get a sunburn if she wore clothes like that. “My first thought was I’m gonna marry that girl,” Dean said in a statement for the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary. “My second thought was, ‘Lord she’s good lookin’. And that was the day my life began. I wouldn’t trade the last 50 years for nothing on this earth.” Meanwhile, Parton admitted that the last thing on her mind when she moved to Nashville was “looking for a man” but conceded that “there was something irresistible about this man.” She added that she was “surprised and delighted” that Dean looked at her face when they were talking which she says was “a rare thing for me.” Parton also said, “He seemed to be genuinely interested in finding out who I was and what I was about.”
Although Parton was definitely not looking for a man and was looking for a music career when she went to Nashville, it was a man she found first. After their initial meeting at the laundry mat, the pair were inseparable and within a year of dating they became engaged. As Dean’s mother happily began helping Parton to plan a big wedding, her dreams were dashed when Parton’s record label stepped in. “Everyone at my label had invested money in me and in building my career, so they asked me if I’d wait a year to get married,” Parton explained. “And I didn’t want to not do what I was supposed to do. Carl’s mother was just heartbroken.” Instead of a big wedding, Dean and Parton were married in Ringgold, Georgia on May 30, 1966 in order to avoid the newspapers reporting on the wedding and the only other people present were Parton’s mother and the preacher and his wife. “My mother made me a little white dress and a little bouquet,” Parton told CMT. “But I said, ‘I can’t get married in a courthouse because I’ll never feel married.’ So we found a little Baptist church in town, and went up to Pastor Don Duvall and said, ‘Would you marry us?’ We got pictures on the steps right outside the church.”
10. Who is Carl Dean?
Although their marriage has lasted for over 50 years, Dean’s absence from the spotlight means that many still don’t know who he is. Parton has described Dean as tall, handsome and as a “loner.” For years he ran an asphalt-laying company and preferred to continue on with the company and work even after Parton became famous and was bringing in millions. “He’s a deep person, but he has a great and warped sense of humor,” Parton has said of her husband. “He makes me laugh and entertains me. He’s very secure within himself.”
9. Her Performances
While Dean couldn’t be happier for his wife and her successes, he certainly isn’t in the front row every time she performs, and in fact he has only seen her perform a couple times throughout her career. “No, he doesn’t like to do that,” Parton revealed to Ellen DeGeneres. “He gets nervous seeing me perform. It’s almost like seeing your kid in a recital. He’s afraid I’ll mess up. Actually, he has seen me a time or two and it did relax him a little. He saw that I do mess up and it’s OK because people are not gonna punish me for it.”
8. Out of the Spotlight
Dean has made it abundantly clear that a life in the spotlight is not for him, and Parton has revealed that he actually did give it a shot but one awards show was all it took for him to retreat to a life of complete privacy. “My husband is a loner,” she told PEOPLE. “He doesn’t particularly care about being around anybody but me. He’s just always asked me to leave him out of all this. He does not like all the hullabaloo.” Parton revealed that back in 1966 Parton was invited to a BMI dinner to pick up her first songwriting award, and she convinced her new husband to attend with her. “This was my first big record. It went to No. 1 for Bill, and it was BMI’s Song of the Year,” Parton recalled. “So Carl and I got dressed up, he was in a tux, and we drove to the dinner. We got out and walked up the red carpet and went inside and sat through dinner and the awards, and I went up and got my award. After the dinner, we walked back out, and they brought us our car — I don’t even remember what we were driving then — and we got in it and headed for home. Carl turned to me and said, ‘Dolly, I want you to have everything you want, and I’m happy for you, but don’t you ever ask me to go to another one of them dang things again!'”
7. Affair of the Heart
Over the years Dolly Parton and Carl Dean have weathered their fair share of cheating rumors with it being speculated that the distance between the pair with Dean not wanting any part in the spotlight left lots of room for Parton to cheat. For many years, many people thought she was romantically involved with her music partner Porter Wagoner, and she was also connected to her band leader Gregg Perry as well as her former bodyguard Mark Kiracofe. While Parton has often said things that led many to believe she has had an affair, the closest she came to admitting it was saying she had an “affair of the heart” that almost drove her to suicide. In a 2017 book called Dolly on Dolly, Interviews and Encounters with Dolly Parton, the singer admitted that an “affair of the heart” had left her heartbroken and dealing with depression. “I was sitting upstairs in my bedroom one afternoon when I noticed in the nightstand drawer my gun that I keep for burglars. I looked at it a long time … Then, just as I picked it up, just to hold it and look at it for a moment, our little dog, Popeye, came running up the stairs,” Parton reportedly wrote in the book. “The tap-tap-tap of his paws jolted me back to reality … I kinda believe Popeye was a spiritual messenger from God.”
6. Opposites Attract
With one’s affinity for fame and performing and the other’s desire to be left alone, it is clear that the old cliche that opposites attract really is true when it comes to Dolly Parton and Carl Dean. “I married a really good man, a guy that’s completely different from me,” Parton told Parade in an interview. “He’s not in show business. He’s not resentful of any of that. He loves to hear about the things I do. I love to hear about the things he does. So we enjoy each other’s company. We get along good.” Parton also said,“We’re completely opposite, but that’s what makes it fun. I never know what he’s gonna say or do. He’s always surprising me.”
5. Carl’s Soft Side
Although Carl Thomas Dean seems like the strong and silent type, Parton has said that that shouldn’t fool anyone because he constantly surprises her with romantic gestures. The singer has revealed that Dean often writes her poems to help keep the love alive. “He is not musical – but he is kind, funny and romantic. His poems are lovely and heartfelt. And that kind of stuff keeps us happy over the years – two old goats together,” she said of her husband’s romantic side.
4. Date Nights
Despite Parton’s hectic schedule through the years, the singer has revealed that part of what has kept her marriage strong is the date nights that she and Dean have continued to have. One of their favorite things to do together is go on small RV trips and “just be simple,” according to the star. “I love to read, I love to cook, I love to be with my husband. I put on my little comfy clothes — I call them my baby clothes — and we just relax,” Parton shared. “We drive through these little drive-through restaurants,” she told Parade of the RV adventures. “We sightsee all of Tennessee and Kentucky, the areas that we can get back home from at night. Sometimes we’ll stay over at a Days Inn [motel] where we can just pull up and sneak me in. We don’t care, as long as the bed’s clean and there’s a bathroom. That’s how we live.”
3. Dolly Parton Dean
Dolly Parton is a name synonymous with an absolute icon so when Parton and Dean were married she opted to keep her name the same, but eventually revealed she did indeed take her husband’s last name and her passport reads “Dolly Parton Dean.” It was when Parton was asked in an interview if there was any pushback that she didn’t change her name because it was “unconventional” to not take your husband’s surname in the ’60s that she revealed she did have his last name. “You know what,” Parton said, “my passport is Dolly Parton Dean. I sign a lot of my contracts Dean. I didn’t change names [publicly] because I already had a record deal. It made no sense. He never asked me to.” She added in a separate interview, “When I am on stage, I am Dolly Parton – and the faker I look, with the hair and the double Ds and all, the more real I am, the more true to my roots. But when I am at home, cleaning out the fish Carl has caught or still putting on the laundry, I am Dolly Dean.”
2. No Kids
Dolly Parton has taken on a lot of things in life, but one journey she never took on was motherhood. In 1977, at 31, Parton was still musing about having children but didn’t know how it could work with her career. “I don’t know that I won’t have children someday,” she said. “But it’s just not possible for me to bear children and leave them for somebody else to raise while I have a career. If I wait until I’m naturally too old to have children, I can always adopt them.” Seven years later the possibility of having children naturally ended for Parton and Dean when a medical condition caused the singer to get a full hysterectomy. While the singer admitted it was difficult some days to deal with the knowledge, she now knows motherhood just wasn’t in the cards for her. “God has a plan for everything,” she said. “I think it probably was his plan for me not to have kids so everybody’s kids could be mine. And they are now.” “Now that Carl and I are older, we often say, “Aren’t you glad we didn’t have kids? Now we don’t have kids to worry about,” she told Billboard.
“Jolene” is one of the most iconic country music songs and as it turns out it was inspired by a woman who took an interest in Parton’s husband years ago. According to Parton, a gorgeous bank teller “got this terrible crush on my husband,” and he enjoyed the attention she gave him. “He just loved going to the bank because she paid him so much attention. It was kinda like a running joke between us—when I was saying, ‘Hell, you’re spending a lot of time at the bank. I don’t believe we’ve got that kind of money.'” Parton added that she was intimidated because she felt like the bank teller had everything she didn’t, “like legs — you know, she was about 6 feet tall. And had all that stuff that some little short, sawed-off honky like me don’t have.” In the end, nothing nearly as scandalous as the song suggested happened, but it made for a great Dolly Parton hit.