Dolly Parton's first Knoxville concert in more than 25 years aids kids’ literacy

Dolly Parton kicks off her “Better Day” tour Sunday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. Proceeds from the show will benefit Parton’s Imagination Library childhood literacy program.

Photo by Saul Young // Buy this photo

Dolly Parton kicks off her “Better Day” tour Sunday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. Proceeds from the show will benefit Parton’s Imagination Library childhood literacy program.

Bekki Vaden, left, and Meg Davis show off their Dolly Parton concert tickets outside Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday while modeling their Dolly attire. Vaden was dressed as the Dolly of what she called the “Dumb Blonde” era, while Davis was decked out as the Parton of the ’80s.

Photo by Saul Young

Bekki Vaden, left, and Meg Davis show off their Dolly Parton concert tickets outside Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday while modeling their Dolly attire. Vaden was dressed as the Dolly of what she called the “Dumb Blonde” era, while Davis was decked out as the Parton of the ’80s.

Dolly Parton may have the fake hair, but it was her fans who were flipping their wigs Sunday night at Thompson-Boling Arena on the University of Tennessee campus.

Bekki Vaden, a 26-year-old stay-at-home North Knoxville mother, came dressed as Parton from the 1970s — the “Dumb Blonde” era, as she called it — to mark Parton’s first Knoxville concert in more than 25 years. She was with friend Meg Davis, 28, a stylist from Nashville who was decked out as the Parton from the 1980s.

Vaden had on a flower-print dress — short cut, of course — complete with a blond wig and red heels accented with big butterflies across her toes.

“I am the biggest Dolly fan,” Vaden said with a smile.

No kidding.

Her car hood features Parton’s likeness.

Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt attended, sitting in the second row. “I know people,” she deadpanned about how she scored such seats. “I’ve known Dolly for a long time.”

More than 8,600 tickets were sold to Parton’s show. Proceeds are earmarked for her Imagination Library project, which distributes 700,000 books monthly to preschoolers around the world. Dollywood Foundation President David Dotson estimated the show raised around $200,000.

Regardless of why she was here, Parton’s fans were just eager to see their favorite star performing here again.

“I love country music. I love Dolly. … This is a bigger venue where (more) people can come to see her,” said Alyssa Strom, 22, of Williamston, S.C.

This was Strom’s first time to see Parton in concert, but her companion, Mary Ann Kirby, 66, had seen Parton before at Dollywood. “We’re just Dolly fans,” Kirby said of why she and Strom were at the show.

Parton came back to Knoxville to kick off her “Better Day” tour. The audience was eager to see the busty blonde from Sevier County break out her hits and some new tunes.

She opened with a medley of “Light of a Clear Blue Morning/Walkin’ On Sunshine/Shine Like The Sun,” strolling out on stage playing the fiddle. She followed it up with “Jolene.”

“It’s so good to see you,” Parton told the audience, “and I’m so glad to see you lookin’ so good.”

She talked of her early days with the late radio legend Cas Walker and her humble Sevier County beginnings.

Not everyone who attended — including Don and Donna Sokol of Farragut — wants to make the trek to Dollywood to see Parton perform. They’d rather see her in Knoxville.

“Dollywood has a lot of things to see,” Don Sokol said, “but this show lets everybody focus on just Dolly.”

Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2011 Knoxville.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Related Topics

Comments » 9

MoonpieSally writes:

Dolly would look just like us at 60 -- still beautiful and vibrant. She has a heart of gold!

HoosierGuy writes:

If only more people, famous or not, would follow her lead in helping others. Good Job Ms. Parton!

kpharmer writes:

in response to osu2:

Just "imagine" if she hadn't had joker surgery, implants and didn't wear wigs, what she'd look like

Sexist much? Would you offer the same remark if the performer was a man?

Dolly is an accomplished performer and businesswoman. Her appearance is totally irrelevant.

JdandthePig writes:

Dolly just opens her mouth and the beatiful music of her voice flows out! This is a fantastic concert in the true nature of a concert expeariance. New songs old hits and just enough verbal interaction to make it more interesting and heartfelt. Her ability to play so many instruments as well as her limitless song writting talent is amazing and her personality only adds to the total package. As with everything she does this show is a huge sucess and a must see! Thank You Dolly not just for all you do for everyone, but most importantly for all you have given us of yourself.

JdandthePig writes:

in response to kpharmer:

Sexist much? Would you offer the same remark if the performer was a man?

Dolly is an accomplished performer and businesswoman. Her appearance is totally irrelevant.

Too bad you didn't go for the music and the emotion.

Mithrasana writes:

Doesn't matter what Dolly chooses to do with her own appearance...she's beautiful, talented, and puts on a great show!

jskid writes:

I love Dolly, but I'll have to agree with the others. She looks BaaaaaaD! As does wayne Newton and alot of other celebreties who seem to want to remain "ageless". We really care more about her as person.

Space_Toast writes:

I love Dolly. I love what she does for East TN. I love what she does for children all over the world. I went to the show...and unfortunately I sat too close. She lip-synched every song, faked playing instruments (the piano wasn't even real...it was just a prop) and her "heart-felt" stories between songs were written out for her on teleprompters. Had I been sitting further away (or been a few cocktails deep) the illusion of an actual performance might have worked.

However I must give credit to her band & crew as they did an amazing job with the sound. T-B arena has the worst acoustics of any venue in the South and they made her sound great. She had wonderful energy and I was entertained...considering this was the first performance of the tour I hope she's able to tighten-up on the lip-sync so it's not so obvious.

smokymtman writes:

FANTASTIC concert from Dolly....never been to one that she didn't give her all to entertain the fans. She admits her looks are exagerated a bit, but her performances are pure enjoyment. Love you, Dolly!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Already activated? Login