Image credit: T.o.D. at 45cat.com
Dolly Parton made her Grand Ole Opry debut 63 years ago today, on July 25, 1959.
Dolly began performing as a child, singing on local radio and television programs in the East Tennessee area. By ten, she was appearing on The Cas Walker Show on both WIVK Radio and WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee. Dolly made her first professional recording at age 13 when she recorded "Puppy Love" for Goldband Records. Released in April 1959, the single did not chart.
Dolly and her uncle Bill Owens had made musical connections while performing on The Cas Walker Show, and on the night of July 25, 1959, they managed to get Jimmy C. Newman to agree to give Dolly one of his spots on the Saturday night Grand Ole Opry. She was introduced by Johnny Cash who said, "We’ve got a little girl here from up in East Tennessee. Her daddy’s listening to the radio at home and she’s gonna be in real trouble if she doesn’t sing tonight, so let’s bring her out here." She then performed a cover of George Jones' "You Gotta Be My Baby" and received three encores. Dolly would not appear on the Opry stage again until October 7, 1967, and she became a member on January 4, 1969.
Listen below to Dolly's 1970 performance of "You Gotta Be My Baby" at her alma mater, Sevier County High School. She would later record a studio version of the song for the 1994 compilation Red Hot + Country.