The history of Dolly Parton and Carl Dean’s 54-year marriage, and their secret to long-lasting love

9 September 2020, 16:15 | Updated: 15 October 2020, 20:28

The history of Dolly Parton and Carl Dean's relationship
The history of Dolly Parton and Carl Dean's relationship. Picture: Dolly Parton / DollyParton.com

By Sian Moore

Dolly Parton and Carl Dean tied the knot in 1966 after meeting at a local launderette, and though Dolly went on to become a superstar, they're still happily married today.

Their love has withstood over five decades – and Dolly Parton's incredibly successful career in music.

But when they first met in the 1960s, neither of them could've imagined that Dolly would become the country legend she is today.

And despite her husband Carl Dean preferring a much more private life, the couple found a way to make their marriage work.

Here's the history and secrets of their lasting love...

When country icon Dolly Parton first met her husband, Carl Dean, she was 18 years old.

A then 21-year-old Carl had spotted Dolly outside their local Wishy Washy Laundromat in Nashville, on the first day the singer had moved to the famous music city.

"My first thought was I'm gonna marry that girl," he recalled. "My second thought was, 'Lord she’s good lookin.'"

After two years of dating, the pair were ready to tie the knot – but Dolly's record label advised against it, with concerns it could hinder her career.

This didn't stop the loved-up singer, who responded to the label's worries by saying "I ain’t waiting!"

Read more: Smooth Country Icons 2020: Dolly Parton is voted the best country artist of all time

Dolly and Carl were forced to elope, and said their vows in a little church in Georgia on May 30, 1966.

Parton told People: "I had a little white dress and little flowers, and my mom went with me."

The only people who attended the wedding were Parton's mum, the preacher and his wife.

Dolly was becoming a rising star in the late '60s – but this wasn't something that bothered her more private partner.

She even had to head off to a radio appearance the morning after their wedding, and pushed back the honeymoon so she could focus on other commitments.

Preferring to avoid the limelight, Carl has only accompanied the country star to an industry event once, Parton told Oprah Magazine, which was a BMI dinner in 1966.

Read more: Why Dolly Parton prefers to keep her 53-year marriage to Carl Dean out of the spotlight

"So Carl and I got dressed up, he was in a tux, and we drove to the dinner," she recounted. "We got out and walked up the red carpet and went inside and sat through dinner and the awards.

"After the dinner, 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!'"

Dean stayed away from the spotlight and instead ran an asphalt-laying company in Nashville, running the pavement business as far back as 1977, People reports.

In 2016, the still-loved up couple decided to renew their vows after 50 years of marriage.

They held the ceremony at their home in Nashville, with Parton wearing an elaborate wedding gown to the event.

"I never really felt like I had the wedding that we really wanted," she said. "He got all dressed up and I got all dressed up. Fifty years is a long time for anything, and I felt that we needed to do something to commemorate this.

"It’s been a good 50 years and I don’t know how many more years we'll have left.

Read more: 10 Inspirational Quotes From Country Queen Dolly Parton

"If I had it to do all over, I'd do it all over again, and we did," she said. "I'm dragging him kicking and screaming into the next 50 years."

The secret to their long-lasting love, Parton credits, is their complimentary personalities – and their independence.

"I always say 'Stay gone!' and there's a lot of truth to that," she revealed to People. "I travel a lot, but we really enjoy each other when we’re together and the little things we do."

Dolly Parton on stage in 1976
Dolly Parton on stage in 1976. Picture: Getty

The pair like to take mini-trips away and spend time in the Tennessee countryside, and dine at their favourite local eateries.

It's also her husband's "unique sense of humour" that keeps her laughing, Dolly's website reveals.

The couple never had any children, something Parton reflected on in a 2018 interview with People.

"Now that I'm older, I realise I didn't have kids of my own, so everybody's kids could be mine," she said. "I [want to] empower children and give them confidence."

And if you're wondering if Dolly's mega-hit 'Jolene' was about Carl, according to Biography, it is.

Apparently, the song is partly based on a bank teller who flirted with him.

Parton also wrote 'Just Because I'm a Woman' as a response to her husband's disappointment when discovered she'd had sex with other men before meeting him.