For the past couple of weeks, you cannot turn on network tv without seeing Dolly Parton’s face. Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining. I love Dolly. I have vivid memories of watching her variety show, simply named Dolly, which aired on ABC in the mid 1970s. She used to come down on a swing from the ceiling. I thought she looked like an angel. Incidentally, if you’ve ever seen Country Bears Jamboree at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom you’ll remember the girl bear on the swing. Yep, that’s a nod to Dolly and her variety show.
Dolly is a musical and cultural icon. One of the reasons why she has been featured so much is that Dolly recently hit a huge milestone. She has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry for 50 years. That’s a helluva milestone. I haven’t even been on this earth for 50 years much less had the same career for 50 years. And, since she’s everywhere these days, it’s no surprise there’s a podcast about her. Of course, I’ve been listening to it. It’s called Dolly Parton’s America. It’s written and narrated by this really interesting guy from Nashville named Jad Abumrad. He’s Lebanese-American with a perfect radio voice – which is to say he doesn’t sound Southern or like he’s ever said the word y’all in his life. It will be 9 episodes when finished and at the time of publication of this blog, I’m currently caught up. It’s interesting hearing about Dolly’s career, especially her early years. I learned a few things. But, the podcast isn’t just about Dolly. There a side tangent about Dolly and the people of Appalachia. How the people are perceived, how today’s youth are leaving behind their Southern accents so they won’t be as stereotyped as well the argument that Dolly is or isn’t perpetuating the troupe of the dumb hillbilly. It’s also interesting hearing Abumrad’s take on things. We are about the same age so we have a similar frame of reference to our shared hometown of Nashville and the Tennessee of our youth. He does a bit of self discovery in this podcast and it’s quite fascinating. I won’t spoil it in case you’d like to listen.
I too had a bit of a self discovery moment listening to the podcast. Many of Dolly’s songs can be heard throughout the podcast, in fact, one whole episode is about nothing but her music and people playing it. But, one that is heavily featured in the first couple of episodes is My Tennessee Mountain Home. I hadn’t heard that song in years. It’s probably been since I moved away from Tennessee over 20 years ago. The first time they played it and I heard those first few lines, my eyes welled up with tears and ran down my face. In my mind, I was in the Smoky Mountains on a warm summer day. I ached deep down in my soul wishing with all my might that I could be there. I still can’t explain why it hit me so hard or why that song conjured up such a visceral feeling. The only thing I can think of is the Smoky Mountains are one of the few places I’ve been that own a piece of my soul. I never lived in the Smokies. I used to visit both as a kid and as an adult but when I think Tennessee I think of those Mountains. I think of the clean fresh air and the way the redbud trees bring color to the bare trees in spring. I think of the little streams that run through the valleys of the ridges that are so cool and fun to play in in the summer. I think of the beautiful leaves in the fall and the smell of woodburning fireplaces in winter. It is so beautiful up there. I don’t get back as often as I’d like but it will forever hold a place in my heart.
Photo Credit: This is the icon on my podcast app. I did a screenshot and cropped it so look for that photo when you are uploading the podcast. I’m not sure who this piece of art belongs to – probably whoever produces the podcast but I’m using it under fair use no copyright infringement intended. Consider this free advertising since I get no money from this little writing endeavor.