by Roman Mitz for Open Spaces
Talk about your Canadian invasion. Dolly Parton’s recent foray into this country to promote her upcoming Canuck tour and the growth of her Imaginary Library initiative was so complete that the only thing missing was her singing of our National Anthem at the Jays-Phillies game. In Toronto to host a press conference and reveal details of her new ‘Pure & Simple’ CD and upcoming tour of the same name, Dolly looked resplendent in a black and gold lamé mini-dress with a plunging neck-line that showcased her most famous assets. As she joked early in the proceedings, she’s taking a smaller band on the road with her to save a little money because “It costs a lot to look so cheap”. The econo-talk continued when the singer explained why she was playing smaller venues like Moose Jaw and Seguin alongside larger markets such as Edmonton and Calgary as she makes her way from Toronto to Vancouver in September.
“We’re playing some smaller things because I have fans everywhere so we do all sorts of venues”, she explains. “The other night we did one of our best and most intimate shows for 2,000 people. Then we go to play for 20,000 people in a stadium. There are a lot of fans out there and I’m kind of like one of those Dollar stores, because you’ll find them in the big cities but you’ll also find them in the middle of nowhere.”
Although she hasn’t performed a tour in Canada in 25 years, Dolly says she has a very strong fan base in this country going all the way back to the late 60’s when she was a regular on the ‘Porter Waggoner Show’, and toured regularly with him. Since that time at least one prominent Canadian has played a major role in her recording career.
“David Foster played the piano and arranged my very first major selling record in the 70’s, ‘Here You Come Again’”, she recalls. “He also produced Whitney Houston’s version of my song ‘I Will Always Love You’ which became one of the best-selling singles of all time. I have connections in Canada and many fans but we don’t get to come here that often so I’m looking forward to the tour. Edmonton is a place very dear to my heart and when I saw footage of all the fires in Fort McMurray I was worried we wouldn’t be able to go so I’m glad that’s not the case.”
Dolly wrote all of the songs for the Pure & Simple CD which will be packaged together with a second disc containing her biggest hits. She says that all of the tunes on the new album are love songs, and it seems fitting as her marriage to Carl Dean is one of the great showbiz love stories with the couple recently celebrating their 50th anniversary. While she’s still a prolific recording artist, having released half a dozen albums in the last decade, touring is another story.
[styled_box title=”Dolly Parton – Pure and Simple” color=”gold”][/styled_box]
“We’ve been touring in Europe for several years and doing really well, but I thought that in North America people weren’t that interested in me because I didn’t have any big hit records on the radio anymore and because young country kind of took over. People asked me about touring here and I said I will if someone wants to see me. I called the CD and tour Pure & Simple because we really broke it down as there’s no big band on stage. It’s just the four of us with no bells and whistles. We’ve done the Vegas thing in the past but this time we wanted to keep it simple.”
Dolly’s also very proud of the progress of her Imagination Library project in Canada. When launching the initiative in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (which is also home to her Dollywood Theme Park), her vision was to foster a love of reading among pre-school children by providing them with a specifically selected book each month. She parallels the growth of the program with that of her own career.
“We started out as a literacy program in our county and then the governor of Tennessee got wind of it and it went all over the state. Now it’s expanded across the U.S.A. and into Canada and the United Kingdom. We’re zeroing in on distributing 100,000 books a month in Canada which is just wonderful. It kind of went the same way with my career. When I was 10 years old I knew I was going to be in this business. It was the songs that got me out of the Smoky Mountains and it was the songs that lead me through my career. It started out at the Grand Ol’ Opry where my songs were well received, and from there I got into movies and television, and then building Dollywood. My favourite book as a child was ‘The Little Engine That Could’. I’m the little engine that did.”