Dolly Parton Insists Porter Wagoner Did Not Discover Her


The monumental career of Dolly Parton took one unexpected turn after another, from the formative years of her childhood to her entry into the world of music and her rise to stardom. Porter Wagoner is an essential name in any discussion of Parton’s career, but Dolly Parton herself has set the record straight and insisted he did not discover her. Why?

Country music singer Porter Wagoner served as a promoter, mentor, and collaborator for Parton in the early days of her carer. His program, The Porter Wagoner Show, provided Parton with a platform to show the “Jolene” singer off to a wider audience. But as far as Parton is concerned, someone was already setting her on the right path for a solid career before he even entered the picture.


Dolly Parton explains how Porter Wagoner did not discover her the way many credit him for

Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business / Amazon

Back in 1994, Parton released her autobiography, Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business, in which she provides a candid look into her life and career. “I sometimes wonder if Porter doesn’t take more credit than he deserves,” she mused within its pages.


RELATED: Dolly Parton Opens Up About Not Having Children With Husband Carl Dean

She elaborated, “On the other hand, I often wonder if he gets enough credit. Porter did not discover me, as my Uncle Bill had spent many years heading me in the right direction. Bill had brought me to the attention of Fred Foster, Monument Records, and Combine Publishing.”

Additionally, Wagoner was not the one to discover a diamond in the rough; rather, news was already starting to spread and Wagoner heard about the “new girl on the scene.”

Parton needed to spread her wings

Porter Wagoner is often credite with discovering Dolly Parton / Everett Collection

When she started out, one of Parton’s earliest gigs saw her performing at a gas station. She’s an almost literal rags-to-riches story, having been born in a one-room cabin with barely enough money to have Christmas with presents—sometimes not even that. Her first day in Music City was spent catching up on laundry.

But it was Parton who clawed her way from obscurity to mounting fame, mentored first and foremost by her uncle.

“I had three chart records of my own and had co-written a ‘country song of the year’ with Uncle Bill,” she recounted. “I had a band and had traveled around the country by then. I had appeared on national television shows, including American Bandstand.” All this without Wagoner.

Parton names her uncle and herself as big driving forces behind her fame before Wagoner worked with her / © Abramorama / Courtesy Everett Collection

However, Parton acknowledges that Wagoner does have a place in the story of her life and is more than willing to sing him his dues. “I want to say that I will forever be grateful to Porter for the chance he gave me to display my God-given talent in such a big way,” she asserted in her autobiography. Unfortunately, Wagoner appeared to agree with this assertion in a very big way and filed a suit against her for three million dollars, “claiming he had made me a star and was entitled to a percentage of my career for life.”

Parton added, “I could have probably won the case in court, but to spare Carl and my family the heartache a long bitter court fight would have caused, I agreed to settle out of court for around one million dollars.”

Wagoner died in 2007 at the age of 80. At the public funeral service held in his honor at the Grand Ole Opry, Parton led an all-star lineup in a powerful rendition of “I Saw the Light” dedicated to his memory.

COMPANY’S COMIN’: A TRIBUTE TO PORTER WAGONER, from left: Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, (aired August 5, 1997). ph: Jim Hagans / ©TNN / Couttesy Everett Collection

RELATED: Dolly Parton Explains Why She Will Never Talk About Politics

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