In the half-century since Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry inducted Dolly Parton, her rise to international superstardom, and her unwavering kindness to those who followed her, have become emblematic of what the long-standing weekly country program always hoped to promote. “Every show has this special mix of new voices, superstars, and even legends,” says Sally Williams, the general manager. “Dolly started as a young artist and has been part of the Opry through all of her successes. She represents what this show is all about.”
In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of her induction, the Opry will celebrate Parton with Dolly Week, a slate of Nashville fanfare that will include the release of long-buried archival footage, the unveiling of a new larger-than-life mural, and more—capped off with a three-night run of special performances at the Ryman Auditorium and the Opry House. The sold-out string of shows will include tributes from country musicians on Thursday, October 10; bluegrass and Americana artists on Friday, October 11; and a grand finale from Parton herself (along with a few friends) on Saturday, October 12.
But those who didn’t snag concert tickets fast enough can still celebrate the country icon. A limited-time exhibit, Dolly: My Opry Memories (open now until October 31) allows visitors to see rare photos and video clips from her five decades as an Opry member, and puts several pieces of her on-stage wardrobe, including the dress Parton wore for her Opry induction in 1969, on display.
Parton’s legions of fans in the industry are quick to point out all the ways she has shaped the South, even beyond the stage. “Dolly broke the rules back when no one else was doing that, and she is as much an outlaw as Willie, Waylon, or Johnny Cash ever was,” says the singer-songwriter Drew Holcomb. “But my kids know Dolly Parton as the woman who mails them books every month. Her Imagination Library has sent more than a hundred million free books to kids all over the world. Hers is a legacy that goes way beyond music.”
For more details about Dolly Week, visit the Opry’s website. In the meantime, take a peek into the Opry’s archives with this exclusive clip of Parton performing her smash hit “I Will Always Love You” in October 2010.