The Story Behind Why Dolly Parton Turned Down Elvis

Dolly Parton is an iconic American country music singer and songwriter whose induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999 put her in such illustrious company as Gene Autry, Garth Brooks, Patsy Cline, and Johnny Cash. Though she hasn't always been committed solely to country music, her career as a musician has been a remarkable success. Before performing at England's Glastonbury Festival in 2014, Metro reports, she was awarded a plaque to mark a very special milestone — 100 million albums sold globally.

By all accounts, Parton's life to date has been an incredible one, and she's collaborated with lots of musical legends along the way. She's worked with everyone from Porter Wagner and Miley Cyrus to Queen Latifah and Michael Bublé. Yet, Parton shot down a potential deal with Elvis Presley having to do with one of her biggest hits. 

"I Will Always Love You" is a truly classic song of Parton's, written by the artist herself. However, it is perhaps even better known for being belted out by Whitney Houston for the soundtrack to the film, "The Bodyguard." Houston's cover is so well-regarded that in 2020 The Library of Congress added the song to the National Recording Registry, per Library of Congress. It has been a showstopper for both women, but another world-renowned artist who wanted a crack at the hit song was Elvis Presley.

Elvis' manager asked Dolly Parton for too much

Dolly Parton, speaking on the "Living & Learning With Reba McEntire" podcast in 2020 (via Taste Of Country), shared a fantastic anecdote about an encounter she had with Elvis' manager, Colonel Tom Parker. According to Parton, she was thrilled about the success of "I Will Always Love You," which was a new No. 1 hit when she got a call from Parker. Elvis liked the song and wanted to make a recording himself. Parker invited Parton to come to the studio, as he and the man himself — Elvis Presley — wanted to meet her.

With Elvis being the star he was, there was a stipulation, Parton explained on the podcast, "The night before the session Colonel Tom called me and said, 'You know, we don't record anything with Elvis unless we have the publishing, or at least half the publishing.'" Parton refused, insisting that the rights would be left to her family. With that, Elvis' take on "I Will Always Love You" was never to be.

The songstress said she remembered crying through the night, "Cause I thought, 'Oh, I just pictured Elvis, like, singing it.' And I know that Elvis loved it ... " she said (via Taste Of Country). Parton also said, "It didn't have anything to do with Elvis. I loved Elvis." But her principles regarding the rights to her music won out.