Dolly Parton celebrates 50 years with ‘Grand Ole Opry’

Dolly Parton arrives at the premiere of Netflix's 'Dumplin' at the Chinese Theater on Dec. 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, Calif. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Jan. 4 marks the 50th anniversary of Dolly Parton becoming a member of Nashville’s popular country music show, the Grand Ole Opry — which is broadcast weekly across the U.S.

It’s home to an elite club of iconic country artists, including the late Johnny Cash, the legendary Loretta Lynn and, more recently, Blake Shelton.

Parton, 72, will be celebrating the milestone with her return to the Grand Ole Opry House, where she will perform two sets on Oct. 12.

She became a member of the Opry in 1969 after the release of Just Because I’m a Woman (1968). The album was a commercial success in not only Tennessee but across the U.S., making her a household name.

Dolly Parton. Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

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In an official statement on the Opry website, Parton expressed her gratitude and reflected on her youthful desire to join the Opry.

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“It was always my dream to be on the Opry,” Parton said. “I actually got to sing on it when I was about 10 years old. I officially became a member back in 1969 and I cannot believe this year I will celebrate 50 proud years in the Grand Ole Opry!”

“They call it the ‘Mother Church’ because the old Ryman was a church,” she continued. “But it’s sacred to me, wherever it goes — the church of my heart.”

“I am excited to be coming back home to celebrate 50 years of membership,” she added.

(L-R) Norah Jones and Dolly Parton perform onstage the ’37th Annual CMA Awards’ at the Grand Ole Opry House Nov. 5, 2003 in Nashville, Tenn. Scott Gries/Getty Images

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In the statement, Opry organizers thanked Parton for her longtime contributions and announced Dolly Week 2019, which will take place the same week of her performances at the Nashville venue.

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During Dolly Week 2019 — the week leading up to her long-awaited return to the stage — programming and performances on the show will celebrate Parton’s legacy.

“As a worldwide icon, she is arguably country music’s greatest global ambassador,” wrote the Opry.

“She has taken the Opry and the memories from those early days in her career with her wherever she goes.”

“Because of her impact across all forms of music, it is only fitting that the Grand Ole Opry acknowledges her broad influence with Dolly Week 2019,” the show added.

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Although 2019 marks Parton’s 50th year as a member, it will be 60 years since her debut on the show in 1959. She was introduced on the Opry for the first time by Johnny Cash when she was 13. During that first performance, she sang George Jones’ You Gotta Be My Baby with her uncle, Billy Owens.

“We’ve got a little girl here from up in East Tennessee,” said Cash. “Her daddy’s listening to the radio at home, and she’s gonna be in real trouble if she doesn’t sing tonight so let’s bring her out here.”

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According to her official website, Parton received three encores that night.

“As I heard the band play my introduction, I lifted my head and looked up toward the lights. I smiled at the people in the balcony and then let ‘er rip,” she said.

Dolly Parton performs live on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival on June 29, 2014, at Worthy Farm in Pilton, England. AOP.Press/Corbis via Getty Images

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As of this writing, Parton has sold more than 100 million records worldwide. She was won nine Grammys and 11 Country Music Awards. Since 1967, she has released a whopping total of 64 studio albums, 41 of which hit Billboard’s Top 10.

Most recently, Parton released the critically acclaimed I Believe in You (2017). She currently has no scheduled tour dates.

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