Dolly Parton Shares Why She Turned Down Elvis Presley Recording ‘I Will Always Love You’
Dolly Parton's signature song, "I Will Always Love You," earned her not only a No. 1 hit of her own, but also a stellar cover version from Whitney Houston that elevated the song to even more iconic status. But in a recent podcast interview, Parton revealed that she had actually turned down an even more legendary artist who wanted to record the song — Elvis Presley.
“It didn’t have anything to do with Elvis. I loved Elvis," Parton says in an appearance on Reba McEntire's new podcast, Living & Learning With Reba McEntire.
"It was Colonel Tom Parker, his manager, who was brilliant. You can’t take that way from people. He did all right by him," she continues. "But, I already had a No. 1 song, ‘I Will Always Love You.’ And that was the most important copyright I had in my publishing company. And so I was so excited, I told everybody. They had called me that Elvis was recording it, and if I wanted to come to the studio. Elvis wanted to meet me and all that."
Parton was thrilled that Presley was going to record her song until a complication arose.
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"And the night before the session, Colonel Tom called me and said, ‘You know, we don’t record anything with Elvis unless we have the publishing, or at least half the publishing,'" she recalls. "I said, ‘Well, that throws a new light on this. Because I can’t give you half the publishing. I’m gonna leave that to my family.’ I said, ‘I can’t do that.’ And he said, ‘Well, then we can’t do it.’ And I cried all night. ‘Cause I thought, ‘Oh, I just pictured Elvis, like, singing it.’ And I know that Elvis loved it. And I know it wasn’t him, but it’s true. I said ‘no.'”
Parton's appearance with McEntire and her co-host, former Reba co-star Melissa Peterman, was part of an episode titled "Forging Your Own Path." Elsewhere in the episode, McEntire opened up about having to take over her own business after divorcing her husband and longtime manager, Narvel Blackstock, in 2015.