Band: Dolly Parton 75th Birthday Tribute
Date: Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m.
Venue: Top of the Bay, 28971 U.S. 98 (Daphne), 251-431-1499
From her early collaborations with Porter Wagoner to a legendary solo career spanning six decades, country music icon Dolly Parton has been a pioneer in a male-dominated business as well as an inspiration for fans and artists.
On Tuesday, Jan. 19, Parton will celebrate her 75th birthday, and a group of local singer-songwriters will be joining the festivities with a musical tribute to this prolific country artist. The tribute’s lineup will feature local musicians such as Ella Marie Salter, Emily Stuckey, Laurie Anne Armour, Mary Alice, Stephanie Leigh Hall, Christina Christian and Cary Laine. As far as the show’s format, tribute organizer Ella Marie Salter said the crowd can expect an evening riddled with collaborative moments and solo performances in honor of Parton. Katrina Kolb and Amanda Donald of Walking Iris will be lending their instrumental talents as well.
“It’s going to be sort of a songwriter round,” Salter explained. “We have gotten all these girls together, and we’ve worked out all the different songs that we’re going to be performing. Some people will be playing some things by themselves. We’ll be covering a lot of songs that either Dolly wrote or songs that she’s inspired. It’s going to be a lot of collaborating between all these different artists.”
Salter said she has always wanted to organize an event that features a lineup filled with local female songwriters. While exploring Parton’s new autobiography, “Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics,” she said the showcase began to form in her mind. Salter said she could not think of a better or more fun way to see her dream fulfilled than to have a Dolly Parton tribute show featuring female songwriters from the area. After seeing that Parton’s birthday was in the near future, she reached out to a fellow artist for her input and her inclusion on the lineup.
“First, I reached out to Laurie Anne Armour and asked if she would be interested or [thought it’d be] a good idea,” Salter said. “She was immediately on board. So, I was like, ‘OK, we’ll do this.’”
All seven of the tribute’s participants consider themselves huge fans of Parton, especially Salter. From an early age, she remembers Parton’s music being played in her childhood home. She is amazed by Parton’s sheer talent when it comes to songwriting and in particularly enthralled by Parton’s ability to weave words into beautiful lyrics for unforgettable songs. She is also impressed by Parton’s independence and success within a music industry that has not always provided equal treatment to female artists. She said Parton’s dedication to doing things “her own way” has inspired her as an artist.
“She’s written thousands of songs, not only for herself but for many other performers too, but she’s always stayed true to herself and done exactly what she wanted to do and worked her ass off and been successful,” Salter said.
Emily Stuckey remembers her introduction to Parton’s music and counts herself a fan since childhood. Stuckey’s first encounter with the country star was through the ABC holiday film “A Smoky Mountain Christmas.” At first sight, she thought Parton was “a real-life Barbie doll.” Stuckey also fell in love with Parton’s unique vocal vibrato and tone. As a performer, Stuckey said Parton’s trademark vocals remained a constant during her creative process. As a songwriter, she said Parton’s arrangements served as an inspiration for her own songs.
“I learned a lot of vocal licks from her,” Stuckey said. “Now that I am older, I appreciate not only her beautiful voice but her writing. She writes for the everyday, hardworking people and she has a song for whatever emotion you’re experiencing.”
Stuckey said her favorite Parton song is the 1974 hit “I Will Always Love You,” which was dedicated to Porter Wagoner. She said she admires Parton’s ability to “express exactly how she felt in a difficult situation.” Stuckey added she is impressed by Parton’s vivid, musical explanation of an “outgrown” relationship that begs for closure. Ultimately, Stuckey loves the song’s message that “following your heart is the secret to a happy and successful life.”
Parton’s music is also reaching a new generation. Tribute participant Mary Alice has become a regular on stages across Mobile and Baldwin counties. Through her parents and various film and TV experiences, she also remembers hearing Parton around her childhood home, which made a lasting impression on this young singer-songwriter. Since then, Mary Alice has not found many people who do not find a connection with Parton’s music. When she is performing onstage, the Parton hit “Jolene” has become a standard addition to her setlist.
“When I play it at shows, every person in the room lights up, and that’s one of the best feelings,” Mary Alice said.
Not only will the audience be treated to the lineup’s renditions of Parton tunes, but they will also be treated to songs Parton has inspired. For years, Christina Christian has performed along the Gulf Coast and beyond. Through her memorable songs and live performances, Christian has earned the title “The Songbird of Perdido Key.” Two years ago, Parton inspired Christian to pen the song “Dolly, Would You Pardon Me.” Co-written with her husband, Nick Biebricher, this honky-tonk anthem is Christian’s plea for an audience with Parton. She added this track also played into another facet of songwriting that she enjoys.
“I love wordplay in songwriting,” Christian explained. “Parton reminds you of the word ‘pardon.’ Dollywood comes to mind after hearing ‘Dolly, Would.’ With the help of my husband Nick’s brilliant mind, we wrote this song as a tribute to Dolly Parton for inspiring my own music.”
Much like Stuckey, Christian is not only captivated by Parton’s voice and lyrics, but she is also fascinated with her look. Christian admitted she is not a “makeup everyday kind of woman.” However, she said she “finds the effort” whenever she sees a picture of Parton. If Christian ever had the opportunity to meet Parton, then she would definitely thank the country legend for the gift of music she has given to the world.
Salter hopes the success of the Dolly Parton 75th Birthday Tribute will evolve into an annual event featuring local female songwriters. However, she added, next year’s tribute and/or future tributes might not focus on Parton. She noted modern music is filled with iconic female artists who have created music that has inspired others. For example, Salter discovered rock siren Janis Joplin shares a birthday with Parton. With this in mind, Salter said she and a collection of local female songwriters might be starting 2022 with a birthday tribute to Joplin.
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