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Dolly Parton and Carl Dean met outside a Nashville laundromat in 1964 and married in 1966.
Dean, a retired businessman, prefers to stay out of the spotlight.
Parton says the key to their lasting marriage is their independence.
Country music legend Dolly Parton has been married for 54 years, but her husband, Carl Dean, remains something of a mystery.
Dean, a retired businessman who operated an asphalt-laying company, is famous for, well, not being famous. He's only seen Parton perform a handful of times, and went to exactly one award show with her in 1966 before she says he told her, "'Dolly, I want you to have everything you want, and I'm happy for you, but don't you ever ask me to go to another one of them dang things again!'"
Still, Parton says he's one for romantic gestures like bringing her flowers and writing her poems.
Read on for a timeline of Parton and Dean's enduring love.
1964: Dolly Parton and Carl Dean met outside the Wishy Washy Laundromat in Nashville, Tennessee. She was 18 and he was 21.
Dean was driving by in his pickup truck when he saw Parton and "hollered" at her, she told the New York Times in 1976. She declined his request for a date but invited him over while she was babysitting her nephew the following day.
"He came up every day that week and we sat out on the porch. I wouldn't even take him in the house," she said. "Then my aunt got a day off, and she could keep the kid and that was my first chance to go anywhere with Carl and he drove me straight to his folks' house and introduced me to his mother and daddy. 'Cause he said he knew right the minute he saw me that that's the one he wanted."
May 30, 1966: Parton and Dean wed in a private ceremony in Ringgold, Georgia.
Parton's record label asked her to wait a year before getting married for the sake of her career, but she and Dean couldn't wait. They went to Georgia so that the event wouldn't be reported in the Tennessee press.
"It was just my mother and Carl and me," she told CMT in 2016. "We went across the state line to Ringgold, Georgia. My mother made me a little white dress and a little bouquet and a little Bible. But I said, 'I can't get married in a courthouse because I'll never feel married.' So we found a little Baptist church in town, and went up to Pastor Don Duvall and said, 'Would you marry us?' We got pictures on the steps right outside the church."
1966: Parton and Dean attended their first - and last - red carpet event together.
Parton received her first songwriting award at 20 years old for "Put It Off Until Tomorrow" recorded by Bill Phillips, winning BMI's Song of the Year. She and Dean walked the red carpet and attended the dinner and award ceremony, but it wasn't Dean's style.
"After the dinner, we walked back out, and they brought us our car — I don't even remember what we were driving then — and we got in it and headed for home," Parton told audiences at the Marty Stuart Jam in 2011, according to The Boot. "Carl turned to me and said, 'Dolly, I want you to have everything you want, and I'm happy for you, but don't you ever ask me to go to another one of them dang things again!'"
September 1969: Dean made a rare appearance on the cover of Parton's fourth album, "My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy."
"My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy" reached No. 6 on the US Top Country Albums charts.
Beyond this image, there are few photos of the couple together in public.
October 1973: Parton released the song "Jolene," which she says was inspired by a bank teller who was crushing on her husband.
"She got this terrible crush on my husband," Parton told NPR in 2008. "And he just loved going to the bank because she paid him so much attention. It was kinda like a running joke between us — when I was saying, 'Hell, you're spending a lot of time at the bank. I don't believe we've got that kind of money.' So it's really an innocent song all around, but sounds like a dreadful one."
August 2012: Parton auctioned off a tour of Nashville sites from her history for charity, including the spot on Wedgewood Avenue where she and Dean met.
The auction benefited the Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation, which expands access to quality healthcare in Sevier County. The foundation is named for the physician who delivered Parton, and she serves as its honorary chairperson.
May 30, 2016: Parton and Dean renewed their vows for their 50th wedding anniversary, and Dean released his first public statement for the occasion.
"I got all dressed up in the most beautiful gown you've ever seen and dressed that husband of mine up. He looked like a handsome dude out of Hollywood," she told Rolling Stone in 2016. "We had a few family and friends around. We didn't plan anything big at all because we didn't want any kind of strain, any kind of tension, any kind of commotion, so we planned it cleverly and carefully. We just had a simple little ceremony at our chapel at our place."
In his first public statement in honor of their 50th anniversary, Dean also expressed his love for Parton.
"My first thought was, 'I'm gonna marry that girl,'" Dean said in a statement of the moment they met, according to Entertainment Tonight. "My second thought was, 'Lord she's good lookin'.' And that was the day my life began. I wouldn't trade the last 50 years for nothing on this earth."
August 2016: Parton wrote an album of love songs inspired by her relationship with Dean called "Pure and Simple."
"I was just trying to think about all the different colors of love through the years," Parton told Rolling Stone. "I thought, 'Well I'm going to write about mine and Carl's relationship. It's just a pure and simple relationship,' so it started with that and then I thought, 'Well why don't I just write a whole album of love songs?'"
December 2018: Parton joked about her husband's crush on Jennifer Aniston on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."
Parton and Aniston worked together on the Netflix movie "Dumplin,'" with Parton writing six original songs for the soundtrack.
"I love her to death," she said of Aniston. "My husband is crazy about her. And he was more excited that I was gonna do a movie with her than he was that I got the chance to write all this music."
October 2020: In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Parton addressed conspiracy theories that her husband doesn't actually exist since he's never seen in public.
Parton confirmed that Dean is, in fact, a real person, despite rumors of him being imaginary.
"A lot of people have thought that through the years, because he does not want to be in the spotlight at all," Parton said. "It's just not who he is. He's like, a quiet, reserved person and he figured if he ever got out there in that, he'd never get a minute's peace and he's right about that."
Parton said that they each value their independence, and that Dean values his privacy and has no interest in fame.
"I've always respected and appreciated that in him and I've always tried to keep him out of the limelight as much as I can," she said. "He said, 'I didn't choose this world, I chose you, and you chose that world. But we can keep our lives separate and together.' And we do and we have. We've been together 56 years, married 54."
Read the original article on Insider