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

Dolly Parton wears a plaid shirt and a cowboy hat.

Music

Dolly Parton faced criticism for turning away from country music. Still, her band felt another artist treated all of them like country bumpkins.

In the 1970s, Dolly Parton toured with a number of other musicians as a way to build her fanbase and gain experience with her band. Some of these experiences were better than others. Parton’s band, for example, thought her tour with Willie Nelson was less than satisfactory. Her guitarist liked Parton’s tour with Mac Davis even less. He explained why he thought Davis and his band looked down on them.

Dolly Parton’s guitarist disliked the way one musician treated the band

When Parton fired her Travelin’ Family Band and hired a new group of musicians, people across Nashville bristled at the decision. To them, it represented Parton’s shift away from country music and onto the pop charts. 

“Any time you make a change, you gotta pay the price,” she wrote in an advertisement for the album New Harvest … First Gathering (per the book Dolly by Alanna Nash). “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.”

Dolly Parton wears a pink dress with a lace poncho. She stands on stage and sings into a microphone.
Dolly Parton | Richard McCaffrey/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

Parton’s guitarist, Don Roth, said that not everyone viewed Parton and her band this way. When they toured with Davis, Roth believed everyone looked down on them for being too country.

“Mac’s band is just real Hollywood and even though we were making a lot more money than they were, they treated us like a bunch of country bumpkins,” he said. “They’d invite us to their parties once in awhile, but they were just very much into their own little thing … We were all more professional, to be perfectly honest.”

Dolly Parton’s backup singer had a different view of the musician

Parton’s backup singer, Mary Fielder, had a different experience. While she hadn’t enjoyed Parton’s tour with Nelson, she liked working with Davis and his band. 

“[It was] a great tour. I think the audiences were very responsive,” she said. “The band was more together than it had been on the Texas tour because we had longer to work together. And it was just really enjoyable for all of us because the people in Mac’s group and our group got to be good friends. I really enjoyed that tour a lot.”

Parton felt the audiences at these shows were too stuck up

Parton got along well with Davis, but her tour with him wasn’t her favorite. This had nothing to do with any of her fellow musicians. Instead, she disliked the way the audience responded to her act.

A black and white picture of Dolly Parton holding a banjo and sitting next to Mac Davis.
Dolly Parton and Mac Davis | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

“It’s a typical Mac Davis audience,” she said of the tour, per Rolling Stone. “But I wouldn’t continue this, wouldn’t let this be my career. This whole year has been an exception to all rules for me because of needing the money to run an organization. But after this fall I’ll be working more to contemporary and country audiences. This is not my type of audience and I say it’s good for me because they all remember seeing me. Whether or not they come back is beside the point.”

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