Pop culture icon Dolly Parton and her husband Carl Dean are in one of the longest-running relationships in country music. The couple celebrated 56 years of marriage in 2022. What's their key to longevity? Parton says that Dean loves her just the way she is and that's a solid foundation for any successful relationship.
Inside Dolly Parton and Carl Dean's Love Story
"We've been together most of our lives," she tells People. "I always joke and laugh when people ask me what's the key to my long marriage and lasting love. I always say 'Stay gone!' and there's a lot of truth to that. I travel a lot, but we really enjoy each other when we're together and the little things we do."
The country star met Carl Thomas Dean when she was 18 at the Wishy-Washy laundromat in Nashville, Tenn.. The year was 1964, and it was love at first sight. During their 50th wedding anniversary, Dean told Entertainment Tonight that his first thought after seeing Parton for the first time was that he wanted to marry her.
"My second thought was, 'Lord she's good lookin.' And that was the day my life began," he said. "I wouldn't trade the last 50 years for nothing on this earth."
The two had a sweet courtship after that first day that was extremely low-key, while Parton's music career was on the rise. To this day, the couple prefers to take date nights at local favorites instead of any hot spots that would lead to getting recognized.
"When I met my husband, he wanted to take me out to dinner. He pulled up to the drive-in window and got our food at McDonald's," she told People. "We know a few little places we can go without being bothered. He only likes to go places where he can be comfortable!"
Two years later, they were married, despite protests from her record label that it would affect her music career. The "Jolene" singer was ready, and that's all that mattered. Her mother, Avie Lee Parton, made a little white dress, and in front of just her mother and pastor, Don Duvall, and his wife, the couple said 'I do' in a little Baptist church in the Northwest Georgia town of Ringgold.
That same year, the couple attended an industry event for Parton's first big record, and it remains only time Dean went out in the spotlight. He's since stayed out of the music biz but was incredibly happy for Parton's and her success. And honestly, it worked for the two of them. She was able to build her career the way she wanted to, and he was able to maintain the semblance of a normal life.
"He just don't have any desire to be in show business," Parton told Playboy in Oct. 1978. "He don't want to have his picture in the paper. He don't want to go out to the supermarket and have people say, 'That's Dolly Parton's husband.'"
Dean is so private that photos of him are scarce. Though you can see him on the cover of Parton's 1969 album My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy.
For their 50th Anniversary, Dolly had the wedding she never had when they were young, and they renewed their vows in a small ceremony at their home in Tennessee. Though the couple never had children of their own, Parton is godmother to former Disney star and active singer-songwriter Miley Cyrus.
In 2021, Parton celebrated Dean's birthday by re-donning her iconic Playboy cover outfit for him.
"My husband always loved the original cover of Playboy, so I was trying to think of something to do to make him happy," she shared on Instagram. "He still thinks I'm a hot chick after 57 years -- and I'm not going to try to talk him out of that."
Despite his spouse's Hollywood celebrity, country legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee statuses, Dean continues to steer clear of the limelight and avoid paparazzi cameras. You really won't see him at red carpet events or around the Dollywood theme park, but we know he's his wife's biggest fan behind the scenes. Their 56-year marriage continues to inspire fans of all ages.
READ MORE: Kelly Clarkson Reveals Whether She's Ready to Date Again Following Her Divorce
This article was originally published in 2019.
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