Something about watching Dolly Parton on late-night television that just warms our hearts. She's always funny, poised, down-to-earth, and wearing the best outfits with flawless hair and makeup.
Her appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on September 19, 1979 is no exception. In the episode, the Smoky Mountain Songbird looks as radiant as ever with a bouncy blonde bob, gold hoops, and a white dress bedecked with sequins. While the segment with Parton lasts for close to 15 minutes, our favorite portion of Parton's appearances starts at the 7:44 mark.
"But I wrote a song for you or about you and about the show so whenever we get through talkin'," Parton said. Carson inquires if she can wait until after the commercial break then hilariously holds up a box of cereal and does a mock advertisement for the "Quaker Corn Bran. The first bran cereal with the great taste of corn" in lieu of an actual commercial interruption.
Alice S. Hall/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images
Then, at around 10:54, the conversation about Parton's special ditty picks back up. "Well I wrote this song because it's been real good for me ever since I started on your show and you said one time once I got to real famous I probably wouldn't come back on the show but I always will. I'm here about as much as you are," she jokes, and then grabs her guitar. "I only really like to [watch the show] when you're on. I don't call it The Tonight Show, to me it's The Johnny Carson Show."
Next, it's time to break into song: "I have a come long way from the hills of Tennessee / and I've worked hard to make the folks back home real proud of me / Now everybody knows my name no matter where I go / But I never really made it 'til The Johnny Carson Show," the playful song begins. "Now I have dreamed of stardom since I was just a kid / Me and dollar dream beneath this $13 wig / and my bell bottom jumpsuits with my rhinestones all aglow / I became an overnight success from The Johnny Carson Show," she continues. The song carries on with many more humorous lines and you can listen to the full version starting at 11:47 below.
After the performance and a round of surging applause, along with some banter about the song becoming Parton's next single, Carson says how sweet that was of Parton to do for him "Well, I just wanted to do something nice for you, because I really do feel like you've helped my career" said Parton. Before she can get the sentence out, Carson jests that if she ever swaps in his name for Regis Philbin or Merv Griffin, she'll have some explaining to do.
What a fun performance. While it never made it onto the Billboard Country charts, it's clear that Parton's songwriting capabilities flex well beyond what we see on her albums. Perhaps we'll get a record of comedy cuts one day with this Carson jingle as the leading track?