Why Dolly Parton?

Sunday’s ‘Hot Dolly’ show at Stubbs  is the latest tribute to Dolly put on by our live music producer, Deidre Gott

By Jeff McCord

For our live music producer, Deidre Gott, ‘Hot Dolly” (you may purchase tickets here) is round three in her series of tribute concerts to the country music superstar. It’s an extravagant lineup of local talent, encompassing everyone from Sabrina Ellis to Tomar Williams, Daniel Sahad to Shinyribs, all gathering to pay homage to a beloved entertainer with no ties to Austin and a persona that can be more than a bit, err, hokey. Which, begs the question: Just what is Deidre’s deal with Dolly Parton anyway?

Q: Just what is your deal with Dolly Parton anyway?

Deidre at Dollywood

DG: I was a singer and dancer at Dolly’s Theme Park in East Tennessee, Dollywood. The show was called Country Treasures, which to me at the time was kinda funny because I was not really into country music. I was studying musical theater. I just saw on TV that they were having auditions and thought I should get some professional experience because I’m going to go to Broadway! Right? I showed up and auditioned with a tune from Guys and Dolls and some obscure musical. And they said, “we want you in the country show!” It was a 50-minute show, a country revue. The first half was contemporary country from the late 90s, the Dixie Chicks, Kenny Chesney, stuff like that. The middle part was a Grand Ole Opry star. So I got to work with some legends like George Hamilton IV, Johnny Russell, and I sang with Jean Shepherd. I went to school in East Tennessee. Dolly actually has a guest doctorate degree from my college. You know, she’s an inspiring person. The big hair, the big personality, all the big things. 

Q: Um, ok. So you partied with Dolly all the time at Dollywood?

DG: I wish. I never got to meet Dolly. I worked there the summer of ’98 and ’99 and was told that she would visit and take cast pictures with all the shows, but she stopped doing that the year I started. 

Q: But you say yourself you were not into country music. Dolly couldn’t be more country. Something seems missing on the road to your zealousness. 

DG: It wasn’t until her box set came out, around 2009. That was when I started getting back into it. “Oh yeah, I remember Dollywood. That was really fun.” I started listening to more of her music. I read the liner notes. There are just so many amazing stories. I got her autobiography one year for Christmas, and that made her more endearing to me, just her stories and the fact that she gives back to her community. The reason that Dollywood is there is that she wanted to bring some living and sustainability to people in East Tennessee where there weren’t really any jobs. So, yeah, it’s her business savvy, it’s her giving back, all of the decisions she’s made across her long career that have been really smart. She is now seventy-five and one of the best in the business. 

Q: All admirable. But you don’t think she can be a real diva?

DG: No way! No one has anything bad to say about Dolly. Everybody that’s ever worked with her has incredible stories of how she goes above and beyond and how she treats people. She is genuine and she gives back. She says she’s not a feminist. She’s a fucking feminist! I mean, you can just tell in her music and in the way she, you know, has kind of given the middle finger to the patriarchy all the time with Porter Wagner and even with Elvis Presley when he wanted to cover “I Will Always Love You”. Being a woman in a male-dominated field really speaks to me, obviously. 

January 20, 2019 / Deidre performing with Leslie Sisson of Moving Panoramas at Cup of Ambition: A Dolly Parton Birthday Bash benefiting Front Steps at the Barracuda. Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUTX

Q: You’re in the music business. Why haven’t you tried to meet her? 

DG:  I have!! When I first started working at KUTX, I saw that she was coming to town and I put in a request, I even sent pictures of me singing at Dollywood. I was like, can we just have you in for a little interview? I guess I’ve tried a little bit. I think I’m also just intimidated.

Q: Your first Dolly show was in 2019. When you called up these bands and singers to participate in this show, did you have trouble translating your Dolly enthusiasm? 

DG: Definitely some people did not get it the first year. I reached out to people that I thought would, be easy, no problem. But they’d be like, “I don’t know any Dolly Parton.” So what I ended up doing was just making a big giant playlist of all these awesome rad songs that you might not have heard of. And that’s what really got people into it, you know, like especially some of the early stuff. 

Hot Dolly benefiting Front Steps takes over Stubb’s Outdoor Stage Sunday, July 25.

Q: I know the planning of this show has been stressful for you, coming at a time when you’ve been forced to find a new place to live in an insane real estate market. What is most exciting for you about the new show? 

DG: Well, yeah, I’m terrified. I’ve played on almost all of the stages in town with various bands but the outside Stubbs stage is one I haven’t been on. So that’s intimidating, but also awesome and really exciting. With these COVID rates on the rise again, I’m even more grateful that the show is outdoors in a large space. There will be plenty of room to socially distance. What am I most excited about? I mean, I haven’t seen a lot of these people in so long. So I think I’m mostly excited about seeing my friends again and doing something together and collaborating and celebrating and, you know, having a good time for a great cause. 

Q: Have you invited Dolly?

DG: No, I haven’t, because I’m scared.

Q:  But you should ask her anyway. 

DG: I know. Everybody keeps begging me to ask her do a video or something and just say hi to the audience. But can I even ask? 

Q: What would you do if the doorbell rang right now and it was Dolly? 

DG: Oh, my God. I would cry. I would burst out in tears and just have nothing to say.

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