Country music legend Dolly Parton admits she made a ‘big mistake’ hiring her family as her backing band. ttmd

Dolly Parton hired and fired her family members as her backing band. She shared why she realized she had to let them go.

The United States of Dolly Parton | The New Yorker

When Dolly Parton embarked as a solo artist, she hired a new band made up of the best people she knew: her family members. Parton began touring with her siblings and cousins. She quickly realized this had been a mistake. While she thought her family members were talented, she didn’t think they were the right group for her solo career.

Dolly Parton said she should not have hired her family

After Parton left The Porter Wagoner Show, she began to reshape her career to better suit her desires. She hired multiple family members to join her as her backing band on tour.

“I felt like my dream was on course,” she wrote in the book Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business. “I put together a new band made up mostly of family members and called it the Traveling Family Band. It included brothers and sisters and a few cousins. I had a great musician and friend named Bill Rehrig who served as the band’s leader and had found a very talented young man, Richard Dennison, to lead the background singers.”

Dolly Parton sings into a microphone while onstage in front of a large audience.Dolly Parton | Richard McCaffrey/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

It didn’t take long for Parton to realize the decision to hire her family members had been a mistake. She felt that she had to mother them and constantly monitor their behavior. She also realized that they kept her rooted in her past when she wanted to move forward with a fresh new sound.

“They are all talented, and I love each of them dearly. They are not at all at fault for what happened,” she wrote. “I had made a huge mistake. Here I was trying to listen to another voice, trying to move in a new direction, and my falling back into my family was grounding me in my past. Their music is wonderful and pure and does reflect the truest, deepest part of me, but I was hearing a different drummer.”

Dolly Parton said it crushed her to fire her family

Upon reflection, Parton believed she initially hired her family as a form of security. It frightened her to move forward as a solo artist and they provided a cushioning level of support.

“Maybe that was the part that was the mistake, I don’t know,” she wrote. “I only know that my dear, sweet family members were not the people that this particular incarnation of Dolly Parton needed to be on the road with. Perhaps I had drawn them around me for security, for the realness of their love.”

She knew she had to move forward with a different band, but it crushed her to break the news to her family.

“That is what made it so painful when I had to tell them The Traveling Family Band was to disband. It was crushing to me too,” she wrote. “I have always had dreams of all of us working together in big-time show business that not even watching the Jacksons could dim. It may happen one day yet. The talent is certainly there.”

She shared one good outcome of working with her siblings

While Parton admitted hiring her family was a mistake, she said some good came out of the arrangement. As they toured, she tried to keep her sister Rachel away from background singer Richard Dennison.

“One positive thing that came out of that experience was the relationship between two of my backup singers, my youngest sister, Rachel, and Richard Dennison,” she wrote. “They were young people with very active hormones at the time we were traveling together. I tried to stay on top of things, like keeping them off the top of each other.”

Dolly Parton wears black and stands with her sister Rachel, who wears purple.Dolly Parton and Rachel Dennison | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Parton’s efforts were happily fruitless, though. Rachel and Dennison fell in love and married in 1979.

“Little did I know it was the real thing. They are now happily married and are the parents of my beloved niece Hannah,” she wrote. “Richard is still with my band. He is a talented performer and a fine person, and I’m proud to have him in my family.”

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