New Song “Dolly Said No to Elvis” Tells True Story of Dolly Parton’s Hardest Business Decision

Dolly Parton posing for a photograph.
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Over the course of her career, Dolly Parton has written thousands of amazing songs. Now, Dolly herself is the subject of a wonderful tune! British singer-songwriter Mark E. Nevin recently released an impossibly catchy track called “Dolly Said No to Elvis.” The song tells the true story of the time Dolly turned down Elvis Presley’s offer to cover “I Will Always Love You.” You can watch the charming stop-motion music video for “Dolly Said No to Elvis” below:

The True Story of Dolly and Elvis

Dolly Parton wrote the song “I Will Always Love You” in 1973 as a tribute to her musical partner Porter Wagoner. After seven years of singing together, Dolly was heading out on her own, but she wanted Wagoner to know that despite their professional breakup, she will always care deeply for him.

“I Will Always Love You” was a hit for Parton and it soon attracted the attention of The King of Rock and Roll. Elvis wanted to sing his own version of the ballad, so his manager reached out to Dolly to strike a deal.

As Dolly told CNBC, “(Elvis) had wanted to record it and I had been invited to come down to the studio to hear him and it was a couple of days before and Colonel Tom Parker – who was (Presley’s) manager at the time – called and said ‘Now you know Elvis don’t record anything unless we get half the publishing’.”

Dolly Parton was presented with her first “really hard business decision.” Elvis’ version of the song would undoubtedly be a chart-topper, but Dolly would lose half of the royalties she was entitled to as the song’s writer. Ultimately, Dolly held firm to her principles and told Colonel Parker, “Well, now it’s already been a hit. I wrote it and I’ve already published it. And this is the stuff I’m leaving for my family when I’m dead and gone. That money goes in for stuff for my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews, so I can’t give up half the publishing.”

In an interview with CMT, Dolly said that other people told her, “You’re nuts. It’s Elvis Presley. I mean…I’d give him all of it”. However, Dolly said that something in her heart just said “don’t do that,” so she listened to her instincts. This decision paid off because, in 1992, Whitney Houston recorded a hugely popular version of “I Will Always Love You” for The Bodyguard. Dolly joked that with all the royalties she received from Houston’s version of the song, she “made enough money to buy Graceland.”

Mark Nevin on Writing “Dolly Said No to Elvis”

In an interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post, Mark E. Nevin explains what drew him to the story of Dolly and Elvis:

“I heard this story a while ago and was inspired by Dolly’s confidence and self-esteem in saying no to Elvis. What integrity it took to turn down what would have been a surefire truckload of money and huge prestige. Her attitude was, ‘Hey, it’s my song, sing it or don’t sing it, but if you want some songwriting royalties, write your own’.”

Dolly Parton Smoky Mountain Adventures theaterDolly-Themed Fun in the Smoky Mountains

When you visit Pigeon Forge, TN, you’ll find numerous opportunities for enjoying some Dolly-themed fun! Here are four fantastic attractions in the Smoky Mountains that Dolly fans definitely don’t want to miss:

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