When Dolly Parton beckons, we respond.
Hundreds of media and industry folks filled two sound stages at CTK Enterprises, the site of manager Danny Nozell’s offices, on Tuesday evening (May 16) for Dolly’s listening party. Billed as the superstar’s “Rockstar Album Launch Event,” the bash was a throwback to the kinds of parties that Music Row used to have in the pre-COVID days. And who can unite the community better than Dolly? Believe me, it was packed.
“How’d they get this many people in this little, bitty room,” quipped Miss Dolly as she took the stage. “I didn’t have this many people at my last concert!”
She confessed she was uncomfortable standing there and talking about the project. It is her hugely ambitious step into rock music.
“I hope you enjoy it,” she said. “Thanks for all of your help. I look forward to working with all of you.” The album isn’t due until Nov. 17, and she is planning an extensive publicity blitz about it, which will presumably include many of the media folks assembled there.
In the meantime, we got a healthy preview at the bash. To the accompaniment of “Rockstar,” her self-penned title tune from the collection, we gazed at a massive video screen showing a dazzling, behind-the-scenes documentary of her many rock-themed photo sessions. Dolly’s Creative Director Steve Summers garbed her in leather, fringe and sequins, posing on a motorcycle, a giant silver-glitter star and a leopard-print luxury car and smashing a guitar while smoke machines belched. Eye patch, pastel hair extensions, platform heels, sunglasses, rock/model glances, the works. Nozell’s newly famous brindle French bulldog Billy (Dolly’s “god-dog”) makes a cameo appearance.
Everyone applauded. That included such fabulons as Belmont’s Sarah Cates, Brittany Schaffer and Greg Jones; BMI’s David Preston, Clay Bradley and Leslie Roberts; Leslie Fram, R.J. Curtis, Marcus Dowling, Brian Mansfield, the Opry’s Dan Rogers and Gina Keltner; Sony’s Rusty Gaston and Dale Bobo; the ACM’s Damon Whiteside, Country Hall of Fame’s Michael Gray and Lisa Purcell; John Zarling, Robert Deaton, Tom Roland, the RIAA’s Jackie Jones, Jessica Nicholson, Alicia Warwick, Phyllis Stark and our own LB Cantrell.
A superb sound system blasted out such tracks as “Purple Rain,” “We Are the Champions,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” (Dolly with Elton John), “Wrecking Ball” (Dolly with Miley Cyrus), “Open Arms” (with Journey’s Steve Perry), “Night Moves” (with Chris Stapleton), “Let It Be” (with Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr) and “Free Bird” (with Skynyrd vets), among others.
The event had a timetable, so not all the tracks on the album could be showcased. Make that “albums.” The eventual “Rockstar” collection will be 30 songs on four vinyl discs or two CDs. There are nine Dolly originals and 21 rock oldies. The whole thing has a ‘70s-rock vibe, which is fine with me, since rock bands have now been obliterated from the charts by hip-hop and teen pop.
The black-walled, video-ready, jumbo sound-stage rooms were flanked by lit display cases containing white and silver Dolly costumes, and the stage featured a big silver signature Dolly logo. Catering was spare, but there were fully stocked bars. And the planners of the out-of-town party provided bus transportation to and from the Music City Center, so relax.
I am told there were party-favor Dolly gift bags. I didn’t get one.