With a heavy heart, Dolly Parton just revealed to fans the passing of her manager and close friend, Don Warden. Affectionately referred to as “Mr. Everything” by Parton, Warden and Dolly’s friendship and business relationship eclipsed more than 50 years.
Warden passed away on March 11, just a few weeks shy of his 88th birthday.
In addition to helping Parton manage her business assets, Don Warden sang and played steel guitar. On her website, Parton shared kind words about Warden.
“He was like a father, a brother, a partner and one of my best friends,” Parton says. “I feel like a piece of my heart is missing today. Certainly a huge piece of my life is gone. Rest in peace Don and know for sure that I will always love you.”
The pair met in 1967, shortly after Dolly joined Porter Wagoner on The Porter Wagoner Show. That gig, as most people know, ultimately helped skyrocket Dolly Parton to international fame. Warden actually had a long history with Wagoner as well. He was a founding member of the Porter Wagoner Trio. Warden joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1957.
Both Dolly and Don elected to leave The Porter Wagoner Show in 1974, embarking on a lifelong business partnership together. Warden served alongside Dolly until his health forced him to the sidelines in 2008. For her part, Parton honored Warden by presenting him with the Angel Award in Dollywood.
Warden also received recognition for his steel guitar playing that same year. The Steel Guitar Hall of Fame inducted him in 2008.
Don wasn’t simply a behind-the-scenes guy, though. He joined Dolly Parton on thousands of shows throughout her legendary career. Parton once quipped in her 1994 book that people were just “using her” to get to Don. At one point, she notes, t-shirt made their way around Nashville claiming “I Know Don Warden.” The country community will sorely miss him.