Dolly Parton’s Band Said 1 Musician Treated Them Like ‘Country Bumpkins’

Dolly Parton has been a much-loved public figure for decades, but she once found herself on the wrong side of public opinion after releasing an album. Parton had achieved success in Nashville, but she hoped for more from her career. As she attempted to gain crossover recognition, she tried to land on the pop charts. This frustrated many people in the Nashville music community.

Dolly Parton ruffled some feathers in Nashville after releasing an album

In 1977, Parton released the album New Harvest … First Gathering, her first self-produced project. With it, she specifically aimed to land on the pop charts. She was working with a new management team, one based in Los Angeles, and hoped they would help her grow as an artist. It was a good gamble to make; their involvement in her career helped expand Parton’s audience. 

Their involvement in her career meant Parton began working with new people in LA, though. This frustrated some of her longtime connections in Nashville.

“They don’t like us Nashville people. They really don’t,” her former seamstress, Judy Hunt, said in the book Dolly by Alanna Nash. “That’s sad, but I guess they think we’re dumb because we’re from the South. I’m really proud for Dolly, for anybody who can blossom out, and she’s definitely done that. But it’s a shame she couldn’t do that with Nashville people — people who really do care, instead of people who want the money they can make off her.”

Hunt said many people in Nashville didn’t want to accept Parton’s success. Still, she supported her.

“A lot of people don’t want to accept it. They think, ‘She’s just disappointed us.’ Especially people who were close to her,” she explained. “Then, a lot of other people have accepted it. I was very skeptical that she’d make it at first. I thought, ‘Gosh, she’s too country.’ But she’s comin’ right along.”

Dolly Parton took out ads in defense of her album

Dolores Smiley, an agent in Nashville, said many people felt negatively toward anyone who tried to break out of the country music bubble.

“I think you’ll find that resentment over anybody they think isn’t gonna stay in our own little convent here, but frankly I think Nashville is beyond that at this point,” she said. “Nashville has grown, whether we like it or not. Our old country music situation was awfully good and secure to us. But now we are in a highly competitive world of show business.”

Parton anticipated some level of backlash when she released New Harvest … First Gathering. She took out a number of ads defending the changes she made to her sound.

“Any time you make a change, you gotta pay the price,” she wrote in one ad. “A lot of country people feel I’m leaving the country, that I’m not proud of Nashville, which is the biggest lie there is. I don’t want to leave the country, but to take the whole country with me wherever I go. There are really no limits now.”

She said she would always feel proud of the music she put out

No matter how others reacted to the album, Parton said she would always be proud of it.

“Even if it doesn’t sell a nickel’s worth, it will always be my special album, because it was the first time in my whole life I got to do something totally on my own,” she said, adding, “This is by far the best thing I’ve ever done. It was the first chance I had to have total musical freedom and self-expression — the first time I’ve ever produced anything.”

Ultimately, the album was a success both with critics and on the charts.

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